Posted by: the watchmen | February 7, 2009

Praying nurse invited back to work.

NHS staff face the sack if they discuss religion with patients (please don’t tell St Bart, St Thomas etc)

By David Wilkes
Last updated at 12:17 PM on 06th February 2009

Caroline Petrie: She has given the offer a cautious welcome

All NHS staff who discuss their religion with patients face losing their jobs, it was revealed today.

A Department of Health document warns talking about religion with patients could be considered harassment or intimidation.

The paper, published last month, does not state exactly what is acceptable but it says action taken for misconduct could lead to dismissal.

The news is particularly ironic for many hospitals, such as London’s St Barts and St Thomas, which were born, as were many hospitals, out of Christian charities.

It emerged after the Christian nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient was asked to return to work.

Her NHS bosses were forced into a humiliating climbdown last night after the case provoked a national outcry.

Caroline Petrie gave their offer a cautious welcome – but insisted she should not be forced to choose between her profession and her faith.

Mrs Petrie was accused of failing to show a commitment to ‘equality and diversity’ after the incident and faced a disciplinary hearing.

But her supporters claimed she was a victim of religious discrimination. The Daily Mail led the way in highlighting her plight.

NHS North Somerset issued a statement yesterday saying it had contacted Mrs Petrie and hoped she could return to work ‘as soon as possible’.

But it added: ‘It is acceptable to offer spiritual support as part of care when the patient asks for it.

‘But for nurses, whose principal role is giving nursing care, the initiative lies with the patient and not with the nurse.

‘Nurses like Caroline do not have to set aside their faith, but personal beliefs and practices should be secondary to the needs and beliefs of the patient and the requirements of professional practice.

‘We are glad to make this position clear so that Caroline and other staff who have a faith continue to offer high quality care for patients while remaining committed to their beliefs.’

Last night Mrs Petrie, 45, said the offer was ‘good news’ but she needed a firm assurance that her beliefs are accepted by her bosses before she resumes her duties as a supply nurse.

Mail cutting

Mrs Petrie, a mother of two from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, added that she knew nothing of the offer to return to work until the Mail contacted her.

‘They have not told me anything directly yet,’ she said.

‘I’m not too sure I would go back to work until I know what the implications of that would be.

‘I would want to know what the terms were before I made a decision.

‘On the issue of praying for my patients I’d want to continue and if they won’t allow me that I don’t think I would return.

‘It’s very difficult for me not to ask patients if they want me to pray for them when I feel that prayer works for the sick. It’s a matter of conscience to me. I should not have to choose between being a Christian or being a nurse.’

Mrs Petrie was suspended by North Somerset Primary Care Trust on December 17 last year.

Two days earlier she had asked her patient May Phippen, 79, if she wanted her to pray for her at the end of a home visit.

Mrs Phippen was not offended and did not make a formal complaint. But she told another nurse that she found it strange and that it might be deemed upsetting or offensive by others if they were of different faiths or felt it implied they were so sick they needed praying for.

Yesterday in the Commons, senior Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack described Mrs Petrie’s suspension as one example of the ‘utter absurdities’ of political correctness.

NHS North Somerset’s statement offering her a return to work continued: ‘We have always been keen to bring this matter to a timely resolution.

‘It has been a distressing and difficult time for Caroline and all staff involved.

‘We recognise the concerns raised by the many people who have contacted us about this situation.’

It pointed out that NHS North Somerset offers services such as chaplaincy and prayer rooms for use by followers of all faiths.

Mrs Petrie has always insisted that she has never forced her beliefs on anyone.

The Baptist, who became a Christian ten years ago after her mother died, said her supplications had real effects on patients, including a Catholic woman whose urine infection cleared up days after she said a prayer.

In October last year she was reprimanded for giving a home-made prayer card to an elderly patient.

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