Hospital's settlement over race claim

AN OUT of court settlement has been reached between Ipswich Hospital and a former nurse over an allegation of racial discrimination.

By JESSICA NICHOLLS, health reporter>

AN OUT of court settlement has been reached between Ipswich Hospital and a former nurse over an allegation of racial discrimination.

Gianina Bernardino, 41, who now lives in Romford had alleged she was unfairly dismissed from her job at the Heath Road hospital and claimed it was a racial issue.

But a two-day employment tribunal which was due to start in Bury St Edmunds today was cancelled after the two sides reached an agreement.

The Trust was remaining tight-lipped on exactly how much money changed hands but it is believed to be a small sum, possibly in the region of four figures.

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Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the Ipswich Hospital Trust said: "We strongly defended the applicants allegations but came to a satisfactory agreement outside court.

"These were allegations that were not proved and we work very hard to promote race relations as a multi faith and multi-cultural organisation."

Around eight per cent of staff at the Trust are from ethnic minorities.

The settlement was revealed the day before a Race Equality Scheme is to be presented to the hospital trust board members.

It was put together in a bid to commit to the Government's Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, following the publication of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

Known for employing members of staff from across the world and all faiths and cultures, Ms Rowsell said the hospital has a strong tradition of promoting equality both in opportunity and race and that it has a strict racial equality programme.

Nick Footer, trade union convenor at the hospital said that he was unaware of the case but said their equality policies did not just cover race and applied to anyone who felt they might have been discriminated against for whatever reason.

The Trust's current equal opportunities policy has been updated to ensure it meets the requirements of the new Race Relations Amendment Act.

An annual staff attitude survey carried out last year showed that around two per cent of people felt that they had been subject to some form of bullying and harassment on ethnicity grounds.

However the hospital said in a report to the Trust board that any perceived discrimination is taken most seriously and that the approach to staff awareness and training reflects this.

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