Mosquito Bite Triggers Guideline Ruling on Diseases Contracted At Work

Many employers provide for benefits to be paid to workers who contract diseases or suffer injury in the course of their employment. The High Court analysed one such provision in the

case of a senior NHS doctor whose health collapsed after he was bitten by a mosquito during a trip to India.

With the blessing of his employer, an NHS trust, the doctor took professional paid leave so he could speak at a conference in India. Thereafter, he took two weeks of pre-arranged annual leave and travelled more widely around the subcontinent with his wife. Whilst in India, he suffered a mosquito bite and contracted dengue fever and chikungunya as a result.

The consequences were serious and long-lasting, causing him to suffer from multiple joint dysfunction. He eventually lost the ability to work and, in consequence, suffered a 50 per cent reduction in pay. In those circumstances, he applied to the trust for a temporary injury allowance (TIA) under the National Health Service (Injury Benefits) Regulations 1995. His application was, however, rejected first by the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) and subsequently by the Pensions Ombudsman.

In upholding his challenge to the decision, the Court noted that TIA was payable if the diseases had been contracted in the course of his employment, or if they were wholly or mainly attributable to the duties of his employment. On the evidence, and on a correct application of the Regulations, only one outcome was possible and the BSA was directed to award him TIA. The award was back-dated to the day on which he applied for TIA and the BSA was also directed to pay interest.

The Court found that, whilst attending the conference, the doctor was both acting in the course of his employment and performing the duties of that employment. The trust had agreed to him attending the event, which fell fairly and squarely within his contractual clinical field, and there was no question of him being required to take any part of the conference as annual leave. It had also been clearly established on the evidence that he was bitten whilst at the conference, rather than during his subsequent holiday.

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