Clyde & Co successfully defend GP practice in yet another novel claim under the Equality Act 2010
Legal Development 11 September 2023 11 September 2023
UK & Europe
Clyde & Co were instructed by a GP practice to represent them in a claim brought by the Claimant who was an NHS patient of the practice.
In March 2022, the Claimant contacted the practice by telephone to book an appointment for his daughter. After waiting in a queue, he spoke to a receptionist at the practice. The Claimant made a covert recording of the telephone conversation. It is clear that the conversation was a difficult one in which the Claimant repeatedly sought to vent his dissatisfaction to the receptionist with having had to wait for his call to be answered, and in which the receptionist apologised on numerous occasions. At the end of the conversation, when the receptionist was in the middle of speaking, the line went silent as if the Claimant had hung up. In frustration, the receptionist took her headset off placing it onto the desk whilst exclaiming “oh you ******* idiot”.
The Claimant (who was a solicitor) brought claims for:-
- Disability harassment (s.26 Equality Act 2010) on the basis of the receptionist’s comments set out above.
- Discrimination arising from disability (s.15 Equality Act 2010) “because of his inability to book appointments” and unfavourable conduct in relation to words spoken by the receptionist.
In order to succeed in a claim for harassment, the Claimant must establish that (a) there was unwanted conduct (b) having the purpose or effect of either violating his dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him, and (c) that conduct being related to his disability.
In order to succeed in a claim under s15 of the Act, the Claimant must prove that he was treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of his disability, and that the treatment was not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
The Practice applied to strike out the claim and/or for summary judgment because the claim had no real prospects of success and was without merit.
In respect of the harassment claim, the conduct of the receptionist was not related to any alleged disability. She did not know the Claimant was disabled (since the Claimant was booking an appointment for his daughter so she would not have access to his notes). Further, the comment was a reaction to thinking she had been hung up on, the manner in which the conversation had proceeded, and in the context of a difficult busy morning.
In respect of the s15 claim, the Claimant was offered and accepted an appointment so there was no unfavourable treatment.
The Judge held that there was no real prospects of the Claimant succeeding on his claims for harassment and part of the s15 claim. Summary judgment was ordered for the Practice on the harassment claim and all of the s15 claim save for the single allegation premised on the comment made to the Claimant by the receptionist which was to be determined at trial as a matter of fact. The Judge held that the allegations relating to the Practice’s booking system were doomed to fail.
Following the hearing, the Claimant discontinued his remaining claim.
Cases under the Equality Act 2010 are increasing in frequency and like the above example, are invariably wholly defensible. Clyde & Co’s healthcare team have significant experience in supporting healthcare professionals and providers throughout these difficult cases and achieving a discontinuance/dismissal. In fact, Clyde & Co continue to have a 100% success rate in rebutting these novel claims brought under the Act arising out of clinical care.