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Nurse suspended for offering prayer

Published: 2nd February 2009

Ban on prayer is discriminatory and contrary to NHS guidelines, says CMF

The Christian Medical Fellowship has expressed serious concern about the case of a Christian nurse being suspended from her NHS post simply for offering to pray for a patient. Caroline Petrie, 45, a community nurse employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust to carry out home visits to sick and elderly patients, was suspended in December 2008, despite the fact that the patient had not been in any way offended by her offer.

CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders said today, 'There are many thousands of Christian healthcare workers and those of other faiths for whom prayer is a normal daily part of their lives as it is for millions of NHS patients. Suspension simply for inquiring about the appropriateness of prayer is not only an act of religious discrimination but will undermine the proper provision of spiritual care in the NHS.'

'Appropriate enquiries about patients' beliefs are an essential part of whole person care without which a comprehensive plan of care is less achievable. A sensitive inquiry as to whether a patient would value prayer may well be an appropriate part of a medical consultation especially in an NHS where some NHS trusts actually pay spiritual healers as part of the care team.'

'There are national and local guidelines detailing the responsibility of NHS trusts to provide spiritual care. As one example the Scottish Executive Health Department issued 'Spiritual care in NHS Scotland' in October 2002 which requires NHS Boards to develop a Spiritual Care Policy for the populations they serve and asserts that Spiritual Care is not only for religious people but is for all people regardless of faith or belief.'

The Glasgow and Clyde NHS 'Spiritual Care Policy' clearly states that whilst it is 'inappropriate for any member of staff to impose upon another person in the workplace their own religious beliefs' nevertheless 'the delivery of spiritual care to patients and their carers is a responsibility of NHS staff'.

The NHS Scotland guidance states that 'while it is important that the patient's right to confidentiality is respected, it is also important to ensure that this does not result in a failure to provide patients with the available spiritual or religious care'.

Saunders continued, 'The vast majority of people in Britain understand the offer to pray for a sick person as a personal expression of care and concern. This latest incident is sadly part of a growing trend of cases where health managers, who are either personally hostile to Christian faith and values or overly sensitive about issues of political correctness, are using “equality and diversity policy” as a pretext for bullying and discriminating against NHS staff.'

For further information:

Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
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