Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 8

A former non-executive director who claims her medical details were passed, without her consent, to other staff members in the NHS trust where she worked has had her case settled out of court by North East London Mental Health trust.

Diane Hackney, who suffers from manic depression, spent time away from her post in 2001 because of her health problems.

On her return she claimed that personal medical details had been 'communicated' by other members of the trust, without her consent.

Later that year she, was removed from some of her key duties as a non-executive director, which she claims constituted discrimination.

Investigations carried out by the NHS Appointments Commission and North East London strategic health authority both found the trust had done nothing wrong.

Ms Hackney was dismissed from her post by the Appointments Commission in November 2003, after it had asked her to resign but she had refused.

She then took legal action against the trust claiming breach of confidentiality and infringement of human rights, which her solicitor described as 'a discrimination claim by the back door'.

Ms Hackney said: 'This sort of thing does happen a lot in health services. The stigma is incredible.

I've never met anyone with a mental illness who has been open about it at work and hasn't had a problem.'

The case will focus attention on the government's social exclusion unit, which is shortly to publish results of a wide-ranging consultation on employment of people with mental health problems. Ms Hackney took part in the consultation.

In a statement, North East London Mental Health trust said an independent inquiry 'wholly rejected [Ms Hackney's] complaints as being unjustified', and that the NHS Litigation Authority, which handled the legal case for the mental health trust, decided to 'secure a prompt economic settlement...to avoid escalating legal costs'.