UNISON National

Latex Allergy Nurse Awarded £354,000 Compensation

Cardiff County Court has today awarded £240,000 compensation, with a further £114,000punitive interest, to UNISON member Alison Dugmore (37), who developed a life-threatening allergy to latex while working at two hospitals in Swansea. Alison was forced to give up nursing in December 1997 after she suffered a series of anaphylactic attacks as a result of using latex gloves coated with corn powder. She developed skin irritation and respiratory problems from the exposure and to this day has to carry an Òepi-penÓ with her in case she unwittingly comes into contact with latex.

Cardiff County Court has today awarded a guaranteed £240,000

compensation, with the possibility of further interest, to UNISON

member Alison Dugmore (37), who developed a life-threatening

allergy to latex while working at two hospitals in Swansea. Alison

was forced to give up nursing in December 1997 after she suffered

a series of anaphylactic attacks as a result of using latex gloves

coated with corn powder. She developed skin irritation and

respiratory problems from the exposure and to this day has to carry

an Òepi-penÓ with her in case she unwittingly comes into contact

with latex.

UNISON, the UKÕs biggest union, took Alison DugmoreÕs case to

the High Court in London in November 2002. The court found in

AlisonÕs favour and, in a groundbreaking legal decision, held

employers strictly liable to ensure that employees are protected

from harmful substances such as latex. This means employers are

no longer able to argue that they didnÕt know a substance was

harmful.

Speaking after her near 8 year fight for justice, Alison Dugmore

said:

ÒI am just glad itÕs all over. I am pleased to get some

compensation at last but I would give it all back if I could have my

health back instead. I put a lot of effort into getting my

qualifications and nursing was a job I loved and I have lost it all.

ÒI could never have got through it all without UNISON, who have

supported me over all these years. And if this case makes

employers sit up and take notice of the potential danger of

powdered latex gloves I will be very pleased. I donÕt want anyone

to have to go through what I am living with every day. I cannot

lead a normal life and this has taken a toll on the whole family.Ó

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said:

ÒI am very pleased that UNISON has been able to secure this

compensation for Alison. Her life has been turned upside down by

this terrible allergy and the NHS has lost a dedicated nurse.

UNISON is calling for a ban on all high protein powdered gloves

because they put not only the wearer at risk but patients as well.

ÒBy winning this case UNISON has established an important legal

precedent – that employers have a strict liability to ensure that they

protect their workforce from harmful substances such as latex.

This has consequences not only for the NHS but for industry as a

whole, because employers will no longer be able to argue that

they did not know that a substance was harmful.Ó

The danger of using these powdered latex gloves is well known

and we want to see an end to their use in the workplace. We know

that around 100 people a year develop occupational asthma due

to latex, and the cost to the NHS of treating latex sensitive

individuals can be more than £10,000 a year, not to mention the

pain and suffering caused to the individual.

Alison Dugmore first reported that she was having problems with

latex gloves as long ago as 1993 when she was working at the

Singleton Hospital in Swansea. Over time her reaction got worse

and she suffered her first anaphylactic shock in 1996. At the

beginning of 1997 she transferred to Morriston hospital NHS Trust

and although she switched to using vinyl gloves, she continued to

be exposed to latex from other sources. Following another attack

in December 1997 she was forced to leave work and has not been

able to return.

Ends