NHS administrator unfairly dismissed after her eyesight deteriorated

A woman who was dismissed after her eyesight deteriorated due to cataracts has been awarded £15,000 compensation.

The case involved NHS administrator Denise Regan.

After her vision became impaired, colleagues started to notice errors in her work. She sent a confidential report to the wrong patient, which was an information governance breach.

Two months later she was told she might have cataracts and informed her business support manager, Jane Kirby, about her condition.

At a formal capability meeting, Regan was given a performance improvement plan and told she would be monitored weekly. If she didn’t make sufficient improvements she could be dismissed.

Regan’s diagnosis of cataracts was confirmed four weeks later. She let Kirby know and told her she believed this was what was causing her to make mistakes. 

The following month a consultation with occupational health confirmed that Regan was temporarily visually impaired but would recover quickly after treatment.

In the meantime, she would need “management’s discretion and support with adjustments as operationally feasible”.

Two weeks later, Regan’s capability review showed that her work had been accurate, but her output was lower than required.

She still had no date for her surgery and as the weeks went by, she made more errors including sending letters to patients with the wrong venue for their appointments and sending letters to the wrong patients.

At a formal capability review, Regan said the capability process “could have been put on hold due to her cataracts”. Her ophthalmologist said the errors were almost certainly due to her poor vision.

Regan underwent surgery, but the formal capability review panel was unaware she had done so when it continued its process.

The panel decided that some of Regan’s errors could be attributed to her cataracts but there were other issues that had not been addressed.

She was moved to another role but clashed with her new manager and raised a grievance that she was being bullied and harassed as well as having issues relating to the capability procedure.

Regan left her employment and brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

Judge Anna Louise Corrigan said the trust was unreasonable to persist in requiring improvement after it was made aware of Regan’s visual impairment.

She was awarded £15,039 for unfair dismissal.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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