A Catholic chaplain who lost his job has been awarded £10,000 after the NHS Trust he worked for claimed that equality and diversity “take precedence over religious belief”.
Rev. Dr Patrick Pullicino, 73, launched legal action against an NHS trust after claiming that he was ousted for answering a hospital patient’s questions about the Church’s teaching on marriage.
Rev Pullicino was pursuing a claim against the Trust for harassment, religious discrimination and victimisation. A trial was set to take place in July at Croydon Employment Tribunal.
However, the London NHS Trust, which denies that it has discriminated against him, settled the case by awarding him £10,000 in compensation “for perceived injury to feelings”. The figure falls within the middle band of guidelines for “serious” cases of discrimination.
Rev Pullicino, who was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2019 and is a former consultant neurologist, was also a whistleblower on the Liverpool Care Pathway scandal. In 2012, he raised the alarm over the abuses carried out under the Liverpool Care Pathway, an end-of-life protocol that often left dying patients without food or drink and which was abolished two years later.
Following the settlement, he said it was “crucial” to expose the NHS’s “disturbing approach to the standard expression of Christian beliefs”.
“There is a tendency throughout the NHS to force their patients to accept generic ‘spiritual’ care instead of giving support for their Christian beliefs,” he added “Christian faith is particularly important in sickness, particularly when in danger of death.
“Limiting this is inhumane, in addition to being outside the law. Good, religion-specific chaplaincy support is under threat in the NHS but is essential in all hospitals.
“A government inquiry is urgently needed to restore Hospital Chaplaincy to its rightful place.”
The incident at the NHS hospital regarding his faith occurred in August 2019 when he was assigned to visit a male patient on one of the hospital’s mental health wards who had specifically requested to see a Catholic chaplain.
Rev Pullicino, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, claimed that he lost his job with South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust after a patient, who was in a same-sex relationship, asked for his opinion on marrying his partner. Rev Pullicino responded: “What do you think God would say to you about this?”
After the patient made a complaint about his comments, Rev Pullicino, who was a temporary member of staff at the Trust, had his contract terminated while he was on annual leave in January 2020 “due to the budgetary constraint”.
‘You would go to hell’
In a letter written in response to the patient’s subsequent complaint, Vanessa Ford, the acting chief executive of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, stated that its policy on equality and diversity “takes precedence over religious belief”.
The letter also claimed that Rev Pullicino had said to the patient: “That you should not be with your husband” and “that you would go to hell” – which he vehemently denies.
In settling the case, the Trust said that “there was no suggestion that the Trust felt you had told the patient that he would go to hell”.
A spokesperson from South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust said: “We are pleased that we have agreed an outcome with Mr Pullicino which avoids the need for further proceedings.
“We remain absolutely committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for our patients, staff and communities. We respect and celebrate all protected characteristics equally, including religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, sex, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure patients’ spiritual needs are met and we oppose any form of discrimination. We seek to protect all patients and members of staff in line with the Equality Act 2010.”