Nurse who offered to pray for patients was fairly dismissed, Court of Appeal says

Ruling adds that Sarah Kuteh’s appeal against sacking had ‘no reasonable prospect of success’

Ruling adds that Sarah Kuteh’s appeal against sacking had ‘no reasonable prospect of success’

Sarah Kuteh. Picture: PA Images

A Christian nurse who was sacked after offering to pray for patients waiting for surgery was fairly dismissed by her trust, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Sarah Kuteh was dismissed for gross misconduct from Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust in 2016, after a number of patients complained that she had inappropriate conversations with them about religion.

Ms Kuteh’s latest appeal against her sacking was rejected by the Court of Appeal, in a ruling that was published earlier this month.

The court papers detail one incident in April 2016, when a patient with cancer who was about to undergo major bowel surgery was told by Ms Kuteh that ‘if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival’.

Hymn singing

On another occasion, in June 2016, Ms Kuteh ‘tightly gripped’ the hand of a patient with cancer and asked him to sing Psalm 23 [The Lord is My Shepherd]. 

‘He was so astounded that he sung the first verse with her,’ the papers state.

‘He described the encounter as “very bizarre” and “like a Monty Python skit”.’

NMC intervention

Following her dismissal by the trust, Ms Kuteh was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and placed on a four-month conditions of practice order that required her to practise only when under the close supervision of a senior nurse. During this time, she worked at a nursing home.

In July 2018, the NMC found that Ms Kuteh was fit to return to full practice and lifted the restrictions on her registration.

Her initial claim of unfair dismissal was rejected by an employment tribunal in April 2017, and an appeal was rejected later the same year.

Expression of religious beliefs

Ms Kuteh then appealed against her sacking to the Court of Appeal, saying the employment tribunal had ‘failed to consider the correct interpretation of the NMC code and the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate expressions of religious beliefs’.

She also said the employment tribunal failed to acknowledge that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights – freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs – was also applicable.

Wording of ruling

The Court of Appeal ruling, presided over by Lord Justice Gross, Lord Justice Singh and Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, states: ‘Even having regard to the importance of the right to freedom of religion, it was plainly open to the employment tribunal to conclude that this dismissal had not been unfair.

‘Similarly, the employment appeal tribunal was plainly correct, in my view, to regard the appeal as having no reasonable prospect of success and therefore in dismissing it.’

Further information

Read the Court of Appeal ruling 

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