Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Atheists back nurse's suspension

Caroline Petrie
Caroline Petrie became a Christian 10 years ago

An atheist group has backed a decision by a healthcare trust to suspend a nurse who said she would pray for an elderly patient.

Caroline Petrie, a Christian mother of two from Weston-super-Mare, was suspended by North Somerset Primary Care Trust in December.

The 45-year-old is now awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

In a statement the National Secular Society (NSS) said it was inappropriate for health workers to "evangelise".

Keith Porteous-Wood, the executive director of NSS said: "Medical practitioners are, quite rightly, not to be permitted to offer religious services to patients."

Prayer card

He added: "Their job is to provide medical services, not use their workplace as an opportunity to 'spread the word', their word and one which may well not be shared by their patients."

Mrs Petrie was suspended after visiting an elderly woman in Winscombe, North Somerset, in December.

The woman is thought to have told the trust about incident and Mrs Petrie was challenged.

She said: "I'm not angry, and I understand if people don't believe in the way that I do.

"But I am upset because I enjoy this job and it (prayer) is a valuable part of the care I give.

"I became a Christian 10 years ago after my mother died. My faith got stronger and I realised God was doing amazing things in my life."

She also admitted she had been asked to go on a diversity and equality course after giving a prayer card to an elderly patient in October 2008.

In a statement the trust said: "Caroline Petrie is a bank nurse. We have had two separate complaints from a carer and a patient about her actions.

"She has therefore been told we will not be using her until the outcome of our investigation is known."

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Nurse suspended for prayer offer
01 Feb 09 |  Somerset

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