DARTFORD, Kent — A nurse in the United Kingdom has filed a lawsuit after being fired for “gross misconduct” in speaking with pre-operative patients about her faith.
Sarah Kuteh, a Roman Catholic who has worked as a nurse for 15 years, says that she was accused of having “unwanted discussions” with patients at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, as well as violating conduct guidelines regarding speaking about religion with patients.
Part of Kuteh’s job included collecting and reviewing assessment questionnaires that included an inquiry about the person’s religion. If the person left the question blank, sometimes she would ask why, and would proceed to talk about her own faith.
“I discuss my religion with the patient and how I have found Jesus Christ and how much peace I have, especially when patients come to me feeling really, really devastated sometimes,” she outlines in a video released by the group Christian Concern. “I have had to reassure them on the basis of the joy and peace I have found in the Lord.”
Kuteh, who assessed an estimated 50 patients a week, received a warning in April and consequently sought to be more careful about the matter.
“I explained to [my supervisor] that this only comes about when I have to go through the questionnaire with the patient, because on the questionnaire there’s an area where the patient has to state their religion and that could prompt a conversation,” she said.
And after receiving a letter providing instruction about the issue, “I’d always say to the patient or ask the patient if they were comfortable, and most of them were,” Kuteh explained.
However, as three patients complained following this time, Kuteh was investigated and then fired in August. According to the Telegraph, one patient said they were provided a Bible but did not want it, and another said that Kuteh was “preaching” at them.
“It was embarrassing for me and painful after all I had done in my years as a nurse,” Kuteh says of the firing. “I was told I couldn’t even speak to my colleagues. All I had done was to nurse from my heart. How could it be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?”
The NHS Trust has defending the firing, telling reporters, “We have a duty to our patients that when they are at their most vulnerable they are not exposed to unsolicited beliefs and/or views, religious or otherwise. We feel we have acted appropriately in this case.”
Kuteh is now suing for unfair dismissal.
Just last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May remarked that residents should feel free to speak about their faith at work, endorsing a report on the matter from the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship.
“I’m happy to welcome this report,” May, who is a member of the Church of England, said. “[W]e have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.”