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Fears over NHS religious guidelines

Religious guidelines for NHS workers have prompted fears that healthcare staff may unwittingly face disciplinary proceeding and possible suspension.

Concerns were raised after Caroline Petrie, a nurse at the North Somerset Primary Care Trust, was sent home for offering to say a prayer for a patient.

She has now been reinstated after a public outcry, but fresh concerns have been raised by statements in the document entitled Religion or Belief: A Practical Guide for the NHS.

It states: "To avoid misunderstandings and complaints on this issue, it should be made clear to everyone from the first day of training and/or employment, and regularly restated, that such behaviour, notwithstanding religious beliefs, could be construed as harassment under the disciplinary and grievance procedures."

Campaigners say they now fear more staff may find themselves in trouble if their religious beliefs, or even casually discussing them with colleagues and patients, come into conflict with the guidelines.

Mrs Petrie, a community nurse in North Somerset, was suspended by the PCT and faced losing her job. But the trust said it is now "keenly aware of the importance of an individual's spiritual belief".

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Even as a committed atheist, I wouldn't be offended if someone wanted to pray for me. It's an act of kindness and compassion - whether or not you see their faith as deluded. In fact it's an extremely scary sign of the times that such a thing could lead to someone being suspended. Where's the tolerance in that?" - Chrissy, W Yorkshire