Health bosses back down over nurse’s suspension

A Christian nurse who was suspended from her job after she offered to pray for a patient has been told she can return to work.

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Somerset nurse Caroline Petrie was facing disciplinary action from her NHS employers because she offered to pray for an elderly patient.

After the patient mentioned this to one of Mrs Petrie’s colleagues, the married mother-of-two was suspended without pay and summoned to an hour-long disciplinary meeting.

The case prompted a media outcry, and raised concerns over the religious liberty of Christian healthcare professionals.

Dr Trevor Stammers of the Christian Medical Fellowship said Mrs Petrie’s employers had “over-reacted”.

He said: “This nurse would be one of literally thousands of NHS staff for whom a sensitive inquiry of this nature would be part of their whole professional care.”

The patient involved, 79-year-old May Phippen, came out in Mrs Petrie’s support, saying she had not been offended by the offer.

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.”

Mrs Petrie apparently only learned of her employer’s offer from the Daily Mail newspaper.

She gave the decision a cautious welcome: “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.”

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