An NHS nurse who was sacked for “religious fervour” in the workplace has lost her appeal for unfair dismissal.
Sarah Kuteh, a Christian mother of three was reportedly sacked for various offences including giving a bible to a cancer patient and asking him to sing a hymn with her.
The patient had lodged a complaint about her conduct, describing the incident as “bizarre” and saying that it felt like a “Monty Python skit”.
As a result of the complaint and previous warnings that she was in breach of the code of conduct of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), Ms Kuteh was dismissed from her job at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, with the official reason being ‘gross misconduct’.
The appeals tribunal heard that “[She] told him [the patient and complainant] she would give him her Bible if he did not have one; gripped his hand tightly and said a prayer that was very intense and went ‘on and on’; and asked him to sing Psalm 23 [The Lord is My Shepherd] after which he was so astounded that he had sung the first verse with her.”
A second complaint against Ms Kuteh came from a patient who said they did not want to see her as they “didn’t like preaching”, while a third reported that Kuteh had told a bowel cancer patient that praying would give them a better chance of survival.
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Ms Kuteh appealed against her sacking, arguing that the court had “failed to consider the correct interpretation of the NMC Code and the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate expressions of religious beliefs”.
She further argued that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows the freedom to express one’s religion. She also argued that the court ought to “consider the fact-sensitive distinction between true evangelism and improper proselytism”.
However, despite her protestations, the tribunal upheld her dismissal. In their reasoning, they stated: “What was considered to be inappropriate was for the Claimant (Ms Kuteh) to initiate discussions about religion and for her to disobey a lawful instruction given to her by management.”
They continued: “Even having regard to the importance of the right to freedom of religion, it was plainly open to the ET (employment tribunal) to conclude that this dismissal had not been unfair.”
The case is far from the first incident in which people in the understaffed and overcrowded NHS have been punished over declarations of faith. In July of last year, a doctor of 26 years was deemed ‘unfit to work’ after his faith and belief in science compelled him to refer to patients by their biological sex rather than their self-identified gender.
Dr David Mackereth said of the incident: “I said that I had a problem with this. I believe that gender is defined by biology and genetics and that as a Christian the Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female.”
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