Nurse told cancer patient praying improved survival hope

A Christian nurse sacked by the NHS after discussing religion with patients and offering to pray with them before surgery has claimed she was unfairly dismissed.

Nurse Sarah Kuteh told cancer patients they would have a better chance of survival if they prayed (File photo: AP Photo/Waterbury Republican-American, Bob Falcetti)

Sarah Kuteh, who has 15 years nursing experience, was dismissed for gross misconduct last year from Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, following complaints from patients.

One cancer patient facing bowel surgery complained after mother-of-three and nursing sister Mrs Kuteh told him if he prayed to God he would have a better chance of survival.

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Another patient told how 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 being held in Ashford, Kent.

Eight complaints were made by “extremely vulnerable” patients facing surgery, and Mrs Kuteh was sacked last August and referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for disqualification proceedings.

Pavel Stroilov, representing Mrs Kuteh, said in skeleton argument that nurses were meant to care for people facing hardship and 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.”

But Sarah Collins, general manager for medicine at Darent Valley Hospital, who chaired Mrs Kuteh’s first disciplinary hearing, said her “spirituality blurred the professional boundary” between herself and patients.

Mrs Collins said in a statement: “Despite having been warned against such behaviour on two occasions, she persisted with questioning patients on religious grounds.

“Following reasonable management requests formed a pivotal aspect of Mrs Kuteh’s contract of employment with the Trust.”

Mrs Collins said there had been a “fundamental breach of trust and confidence”. And she felt Mrs Kuteh had not learned from her mistakes and would not change her behaviour.

“Mrs Kuteh’s assertion that she felt compelled to continue to hold religious discussions with patients concerned me,” Mrs Collins added in her statement.

Mr Stroilov said Mrs Kuteh was not “adequately informed” of the allegations against her by Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust before an investigatory meeting.

And the substantive evidence of patients’ complaints was “wholly unsatisfactory”, consisting mainly of “astonishingly brief and vague handwritten notes” made long after the events, he added.

Mr Stroilov also said Mrs Kuteh’s request to call the complainants as witnesses was unreasonably refused on a “false premise” of confidentiality.

Before the hearing, Mrs Kuteh said she had no intention of imposing her beliefs on others, and she would sometimes tell patients how her own faith in Christ had helped her overcome adversity.