A former neo natal nurse whose career was ended by a latex allergy caused by negligent exposure by her employer has received substantial compensation.

Sharon Dennelly, 38, of Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, has been paid a six figure sum by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, which reflects her past and future loss of earnings due to being unable to work in the NHS again. Her case was taken by personal injury law firm Thompsons and backed by her trade union the Royal College of Midwives.

Mrs Dennelly suffered an allergic reaction to latex gloves whilst working for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals in 2002. The allergy resulted in a variety of symptoms, including rash, runny nose, itchy eyes and breathing difficulties, which were debilitating and distressing.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust originally dismissed Mrs Dennelly on the grounds of ill health but maintained that she was capable of returning to work within the NHS in a latex free or low latex area.

Latex Allergy and Occupational Asthma

An initial job application was unsuccessful but she eventually secured a job at the hospital in what was reported to be a low latex area. However, upon starting the new job her symptoms returned and she was diagnosed with occupational asthma. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust disputed that the asthma was through any occupational cause. Mrs Dennelly was unable to continue her employment and was eventually successful in claiming compensation for personal injury, including substantial loss of earnings.

“Despite my best efforts to re-gain employment within the NHS, the Trust gave me the run around which was unprofessional and distressing,” said Mrs Dennelly. “I’m thankful to the Royal College of Midwives for supporting my case.”

Kashmir Uppal, Mrs Dennelly’s solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors in Birmingham, said: “Despite the widely publicised case of Alison Dugmore, hospitals are failing in their duty to protect staff from latex. Many still haven’t developed policies to deal with latex or to remove latex from the environment. As well as putting employees at risk, they are opening themselves up for compensation claims.”

The hospital would not accept that Mrs Dennelly was unable to return to a job within the NHS which meant that she had no option other than to go through the process of going back to work for the NHS and then being dismissed again on ill health grounds. “This whole process has been very distressing for Mrs Dennelly,” added Kashmir Uppal. “If she hadn’t taken this action, it was unlikely that she would have recovered damages for her past and future loss of earnings. It is hoped that, with training, she will be able to pursue an alternative career.”