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'My wife and faith kept me going,' says former NHS director

STRONG BOND: Elliot and Paulette Browne

THE FIRST time Elliot and Paulette Browne saw each other they were teenagers at a crowded church event.

“There was something about her,” Elliot said. “There was this connection.”

He walked over to Paulette’s father and told him he wanted to marry his daughter.

Elliot spent the next 18 months courting Paulette, trying to convince her to marry him.

“He was very dashing, very courteous,” Paulette said.
The couple got married in July 1975, and their bond has remained strong – even through a major challenge that began in 2007 and lasted five years.

In 2002, Elliot, who worked with the National Health Service for 34 years, became the first black divisional director for clinical scientific services at Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The Brownes told The Voice they were overjoyed when he got the role, as they did not have to leave a beloved neighbourhood and hoped Eliott was a step closer to becoming chief executive. But their joy later diminished.

From February 2007, Elliot said he found himself challenged about overspending in an area in his department – despite making officials aware of what was needed months before. He said his treatment, which an employment tribunal heard included being singled out for disciplinary action, was markedly different from white colleagues with greater overspend.

The 55-year-old said he received three letters announcing his job was under threat, and was asked to write “one report after another in time frames which were not acceptable… as well as doing the job that I was there to do.”

The stress took its toll. He couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks and imagined “trying to drive the car into a brick wall.”

He later lodged a complaint and had to be signed off work with stress. While on sick leave in May 2008, Elliot was officially suspended and dismissed, the tribunal heard.

Last February, the tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed and had been treated ‘less favourably on grounds of race.’

Its judgment said there was ‘a drastic change’ in Elliot’s treatment following his race discrimination grievance, and that once it was put in ‘the trust closed ranks and commenced disciplinary action against the claimant to secure his removal from office.’

In October, Elliot was awarded £933,115 for unfair dismissal, aggravated damages, and loss of earnings and pension. He previously received £71,415 from the trust.

For Paulette, a former nurse, it was heartbreaking to watch joy and confidence leak from her husband’s life. Eliott descended so deep into despair that he contemplated suicide.

“That really hit me,” said Paulette, 55. “It was faith that kept me going – and my love for Elliot.”

Elliot, who was helped by his union Unite, said God, his wife and other supporters sustained him.

“If I didn’t have a partner like my wife… I would have committed suicide… or end up as one of those individuals in a mental health institution.”

He said money was not the issue but he had to fight to protect his reputation and right a wrong.

“I’m not bitter. I’m relieved I have got to the end of this,” Elliot said.

Paulette added: “I’m relieved he’s got some justice but disappointed the trust is still in denial. They have not even apologised to Elliot, and I think they ought to apologise to me too. They have put me through it as well.”

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We strongly believe discrimination did not feature in this individual’s case. We appealed the original decision… We are awaiting the outcome… We feel it is inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”

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