A Christian nurse, Sarah Kuteh has been sacked from her job for offering to pray for patients waiting for surgery on the grounds of gross misconduct.
Sarah Kuteh, a nurse at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, with 15 years’ experience was accused of holding “unwanted discussions” which allegedly upset patients and ignoring conduct guidelines on discussing personal beliefs.
After receiving repeated warnings over the ‘unwanted discussions’ Nurse Kuteh, however, continued to talk about religion with people.
The nurse was told one patient complained she had given her a Bible she did not want and had said she would pray for her. And another accused the nurse of “preaching” to her.
Mrs. Kuteh admitted she spoke to a few patients about religion without their permission when she first began the new role. But after a warning in April this year, she said she was more careful.
The mother-of-three claims her job involved asking people preparing for surgery about their religion and that she believed patients were comfortable talking about their beliefs with her.
She said she was suspended and then escorted from the hospital in what she describes was a “disproportionate and punitive” reaction.
A committed Christian, Mrs. Kuteh moved to Dartford in 2007 and became a sister in 2012. In November 2015, she took on a new role, assessing patients’ health before they went for surgery.
On average, Mrs. Kuteh would assess for operation around 50 patients a week, speaking to over 1000 patients in six months.
Kuteh said she sees preaching as part of her job because she helped people fill out questionnaires that included a question about religion.
She said the question of religion did sometimes arise if a patient did not select the box on the form marked ‘Religion’. But said it was often the patient who spoke about faith first and that she did not impose her beliefs on anyone.
Mrs. Kuteh was sacked in August after an investigation followed three further complaints in June.
Sister Sarah Kuteh is now suing Darent Valley hospital in Dartford, Kent for unfair dismissal. She said she was not going to let the matter lie low. With the help of the Christian Legal Centre, she is taking Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust to a tribunal for unfair dismissal.
Mrs. Kuteh is arguing the disciplinary process was flawed as she was not initially shown the complaints.
She said she was only presented with very brief handwritten notes from colleagues who had recorded the patients’ comments, a few lines each, which suggest several patients casually voiced some discontent.
Mrs Kuteh said:
“It was embarrassing for me – and painful after all I had done in my years as a nurse.
“I was walked out of that hospital, after all I had done over all my years as a nurse and I was told I couldn’t even speak to any of my colleagues.
“All I had done was to nurse from the very bottom of my heart. How could it ever be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?”
Defending their actions, NHS trust said they feel they have acted appropriately in this case. The trust adds that they have a duty to their patients that when they are at their most vulnerable they are not exposed to unsolicited beliefs and/or views, religious or otherwise.