A Christian nurse who was fired for offering to pray with patients before surgery was simply showing “compassion”, a tribunal heard.
Sarah Kuteh lost her job last year after patients complained that she talked more about religion than their procedures and told them that if they prayed to God they were more likely to survive.
Mrs Kuteh was dismissed for gross misconduct from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent. Eight patients who were “extremely vulnerable” and facing surgery had submitted complaints about her behaviour.
Now her case has been brought to an employment tribunal after she claimed she was unfairly dismissed.
One cancer patient facing bowel surgery complained after mother-of-three Mrs Kuteh told him if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival.
Another patient said being subjected to such religious “fervour” by Mrs Kuteh was “bizarre”, and he compared the experience with a “Monty Python skit”.
One other patient felt Mrs Kuteh spent more time talking about religion than completing a pre-operative questionnaire, according to statements submitted at an employment tribunal held in Ashford, Kent.
Mrs Kuteh, a nursing sister with 15 years of experience, was sacked last August after several months’ suspension and referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for disqualification proceedings.
She appealed but the panel agreed that the decision to dismiss Mrs Kuteh was “entirely appropriate”.
The hospital denied that she had been sacked because of her faith.
Instead Victoria Leivers-Carruth, who chaired the hospital trust’s appeal hearing, said the panel believed Mrs Kuteh was using her one-to-one time with patients to “impose her religious beliefs” on them.
She said in a statement: “We did not believe that Mrs Kuteh was being disciplined because she was a Christian.
“It was apparent to us that Mrs Kuteh was disciplined because she had engaged in conversations about religion that were unwanted by patients and contrary to her line manager’s instructions.”
At a hearing on Thursday her lawyer Pavel Stroilov said that she had simply been doing her job by showing compassion to people who were suffering.
He said: “A nurse without compassion would be unworthy of the name. On top of performing her immediate duties, a good nurse would try and find kind words to say to her patient.”
Sarah Collins, general manager for medicine at Darent Valley Hospital, said she had been given warnings about her behaviour but had “persisted with questioning patients on religious grounds”.
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