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Sarah Kuteh: Tribunal of Darent Valley nurse sacked for talking about religion to patients

By Aidan Barlow

A nurse who was allegedly sacked for talking to patients about religion has brought her case to an employment tribunal.

Today's hearing in Ashford was told how eight complaints had been made against Sarah Kuteh, who worked at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

Five of these were made before the nurse was given a warning on April 11 last year, and three afterwards.

Sarah Kuteh recording a YouTube video explaining why she was dismissed for telling patients about her Christian faith

Sarah Kuteh recording a YouTube video explaining why she was dismissed for telling patients about her Christian faith

Sarah Jane Collins, general manager of medicine at the hospital, heard the first disciplinary against Ms Kuteh in August last year. 

In her written evidence to the tribunal she said: "It was Mrs Kuteh's evidence that despite having been warned against engaging in religious discussions with patients, she felt compelled to speak to patients about God as a way of comforting them."
 
Mrs Kuteh had been told that patients who required spiritual guidance should be referred to chaplaincy service. But she continued to talk about how her personal faith had helped her through difficult times.
 
Victoria Leivers-Carruth, executive director of nursing and quality, chaired the disciplinary appeal panel in September last year.
 
Darent Valley Hospital

Darent Valley Hospital

 
In her written evidence to the hearing she said: "We do not believe patients were comfortable discussing faith.
 
"We believe that Mrs Kuteh used her time one to one with patients on their own to impose her religious beliefs upon them."
 
But, she said, patients felt they were being "preached to".
 
She added: "We are concerned that Mrs Kuteh did not seem to appreciate that patients who made complaints against her did not welcome these religious discussions."
 
One patient, who has not been named, submitted a formal written complaint in June last year.
 
"We do not believe patients were comfortable discussing faith" - Victoria Leivers-Carruth
He said he felt shaken up by the experience.
 
Mrs Kuteh had focused on questioning him about his beliefs, he said, and she had offered him a Bible and asked him to join her in singing psalm 23.
 
He said he was so astounded, and felt she implied that the only way to be cured from illness was to believe in God. 
 
He felt he shouldn't have been subjected to such religious fervour while in such a vulnerable position. 
 
He described the experience as very bizarre and comparable to a Monty Python skit. 
 
Another patient awaiting treatment for bowel cancer was told by Mrs Kuteh that if he prayed to God he would have better chance of survival.  
 
Another patient said he was asked about what being a Christian meant.  He said he felt "awkward".
 

The tribunal comes after Sarah Kuteh took to YouTube to explain the discussions only arose as it was her job to help patients fill out pre-op assessment forms, which dealt with their religion.

Mrs Kuteh, who is being supported by the Christian Concern organisation, was dismissed after 15 years of nursing.

On the clip, Mrs Kuteh said: "My job was to go through questionnaires with patients and an aspect of this is religion.

"There is an aspect in each of these questionnaires where I have to deal with religion and a patient would have to state their religion - or not. This would always bring about the most discussions.

"I discussed my religion with a patient and how I have found Jesus Christ and how much peace I have.

“Especially when patients have come to me really really devastated sometimes and I have had to reassure them based on the joy and peace I really have found with the Lord."

Mrs Kuteh had worked at the Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford before the alleged dismissal in December last year.

The tribunal continues.

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