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BMA to debate religion and prayer in the NHS

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The debate over whether nursing staff and other health practitioners should have the right to discuss religion with patients and to pray for them is to be debated at the BMA’s annual representative meeting this week.

Disciplinary action was considered against a nurse from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, last year after a patient complained that she had offered to pray for her.

However, Caroline Petrie was later given permission from the primary care trust that employed her to continue to pray for patients, providing she first asked if they had any spiritual needs.

A document, Religion or Belief: A Practical Guide for the NHS, sets out guidelines that campaigners believe could get more staff into trouble if their religious beliefs are seen to conflict with the recommendations.

‘Members of some religions… are expected to preach and to try to convert other people,’ the document states. ‘In a workplace environment this can cause many problems, as non-religious people and those from other religions or beliefs could feel harassed and intimidated by this behaviour.’

This week, the BMA conference in Liverpool will discuss a motion which says that the meeting is concerned that some paragraphs suggest that any discussion of spiritual matters with patients or colleagues could lead to disciplinary action.

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