Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Monday, February 02, 2009

Suspended for Offering to Pray

A Christian nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended from her work for offering to pray for an elderly patient.

Caroline Petrie, a community nurse and devout Christian, is facing dismissal for an alleged breach of her code of conduct on equality and diversity.

Mrs Petrie, who is married mother of two, has been accused by her employers of failing to demonstrate a ‘personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ because of her offer of prayer.

She was suspended, without pay, on 17th December 2008 and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting this week. She says she has been left shocked and upset by the action taken against her.

Mrs Petrie, who has been a community nurse since 1985 and is employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust, said she had asked an elderly patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the patient’s legs. The patient declined and Mrs Petrie took the matter no further.

The situation arose at the home of the patient in North Somerset. Mrs Petrie said: 'It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her. I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: “Would you like me to pray for you?” She said “No, thank you.” And I said: “OK.” I only offered to pray for her because I was concerned about her welfare and wanted her to get better.’

Mrs Petrie was initially confronted the next day by a nursing sister who said the patient had been taken aback by her question about prayer. Subsequently, Mrs Petrie received a message on her home phone from the North Somerset Primary Care Trust telling her that disciplinary action against her would be taken. She was then suspended.

The guidelines for hospital chaplains state: The cornerstone of the modern NHS is the ability to respond sensitively to the diverse nature of the communities it serves; all services, including spiritual ones, should be delivered appropriately to service users and NHS staff.

A report of the story in the Western Daily Press stated:

Alison Withers, Mrs Petrie's boss at the time, wrote to her at the end of November saying: "As a nurse you are required to uphold the reputation of your profession. Your NMC (Nursing Midwifery Council) code states that 'you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity' and 'you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health'."

As a result, Mrs Petrie, who qualified as a nurse in 1985 and has worked parttime for the North Somerset authority since last February, was ordered to attend an equality course.

Her husband Stewart, 48, yesterday condemned the situation as "political correctness gone mad". And Mr Petrie made it clear that children Nathan, 14, and Matthew, 10, were fully behind their mother.

Andrea Williams, the founder and Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It is of huge concern that Christian citizens, whose desire is to do their jobs well, are increasingly being silenced and pushed out of the ‘public square’ because of Equality and Diversity Policies. It is extraordinary, that these policies which purport to ensure tolerance are ushering in a new form of censorship and intolerance which should concern us all’

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