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Nurse sacked after offering to pray for patients

A nurse who offered to pray for patients waiting for surgery has been sacked from her job for gross misconduct.
Sarah Kuteh

A nurse who offered to pray for patients waiting for surgery has been sacked from her job for gross misconduct.

Sister Sarah Kuteh is taking legal action against Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for unfair dismissal, after losing her job at Darent Valley Hospital in August this year.

The trust says Ms Kuteh, who is a Christian, was dismissed following several complaints from patients that conversations were excessive, unwanted and not consensual.

The Mail on Sunday reported on these complaints, which included one patient who said Ms Kuteh had given her a Bible she did not want, saying she would pray for her. Another patient accused the nurse of preaching at her.

The trust said her dismissal was not because of any religious belief she held, but how those beliefs were being conveyed to patients.

Questionnaire

The charges relate

A nurse who offered to pray for patients waiting for surgery has been sacked from her job for gross misconduct.



Sister Sarah Kuteh is taking legal action against Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for unfair dismissal, after losing her job at Darent Valley Hospital in August this year.

The trust says Ms Kuteh, who is a Christian, was dismissed following several complaints from patients that conversations were ‘excessive, unwanted and not consensual’.

The Mail on Sunday reported on these complaints, which included one patient who said Ms Kuteh had given her a Bible she did not want, saying she would pray for her. Another patient accused the nurse of ‘preaching’ at her.

The trust said her dismissal was not because of any religious belief she held, but how those beliefs were being conveyed to patients.

Questionnaire

The charges relate to when Ms Kuteh transferred to a pre-op assessment team, where she said part of her job was to complete a pre-operation questionnaire that included a question about religion to ensure any religious requirements were understood prior to surgery.

‘I help patients fill in a questionnaire that often brings up a discussion about religion; I discussed how I found Jesus Christ and how much joy and peace I have,’ Ms Kuteh said.

Ms Kuteh added that she received a letter in April informing her that such discussions could only take place at the patient’s request.

An investigation was launched after more complaints came to light, which led to her dismissal.

Seeking redress

Ms Kuteh is now taking legal action with the help of the group Christian Legal Centre.

She said: ‘Losing my job has exposed me not just to financial poverty but the possibility of homelessness.

‘My colleagues say I’m a brilliant nurse and brought a different flair to the unit.

‘Nursing is not just about physical care, it’s about holistically looking at every aspect that involves that patient’s care, and religion is one of them.

‘How could telling anyone about Jesus Christ really be harmful to any patient?’

Duty of care

A spokesperson for the trust said: We have a duty to our patients to ensure that when they are at their most vulnerable, they are not exposed to the unsolicited beliefs and/or views of others, religious or otherwise. Sarah Kuteh’s dismissal was not because of any religious belief she held but how these beliefs were being conveyed to patients. Following several complaints from patients that the conversations were excessive, unwanted and not consensual her line manager directed her to concentrate on her nursing duties and refrain from preaching to patients. Regrettably there was no change in her conduct and the Trust felt it had no option but to handle her behaviour through the disciplinary process which resulted in her dismissal. The Trust felt given the full circumstance it acted appropriately and in the best interests of the patients in its care. Because her actions breached the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Conduct, the case has been referred to the NMC.’

Nurses’ views

Opinion was divided on the issue on the Nursing Standard Facebook page.

Gemma Hunter wrote: ‘Nurses are people not robots! She was only showing compassion? Can anyone really blame her for this?’

Vincent Gibbons wrote: ‘Very many of us in this profession have religious or spiritual views which we can express via our care and compassion and by being the best nurse we can be.

‘We all know the rules about the overt expression of these views in other ways. An extremely harsh punishment, but very naive behaviour I am afraid.’

Patronising patients

Tsie Nyatsine-Gezi spoke of the need to maintain a professional gap with patients and added: ‘Offering to pray for them is patronising them. They request for a clergyman if they need one.’

Nursing Standard previously reported on the case of community nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended without pay by North Somerset Primary Care Trust in 2009 for offering to pray for a patient. She was later reinstated to her role.


Further information

Nursing Standard opinion piece on the Caroline Petrie case


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