"Because I am a senior consultant in an NHS hospital, Mr Lansley sent me an early outline of his plan for reorganisation and asked for my advice.
I told him: ‘GPs are the problem in the health service, not the solution.’
He did not ask my advice again, but instead pressed ahead with his misguided scheme."
What is the importance of these details you ask? Well they are vital when it comes to employment law. Here is a chunk of media policy from a standard NHS Trust:
"If you are approached to speak to the media in another capacity (i.e. for a professional body, trades union or charity) you may do so. However, if this occurs in a way that will link you to the Trust, e.g. using the Trust address, mentioning your role at the Trust, or filming in your department for a back-drop, we would ask that you contact the communications office so that the Trust is aware of the media interest."
Notably Mr Meirion Thomas was not writing on behalf of another body such as a union, he was writing as an individual, however this was never made clear by either the Mail or the Spectator, a fact I find rather strange given their editorial experience. In fact the Spectator went as far as saying in their recent one sided defence 'he insisted on being described simply as an NHS surgeon', this is suggestive that the Spectator may well have advised him of the negative implications in naming the NHS, I also wonder what he was advised by the Mail.
There is a lot of case law relating to employee being disciplined for speaking out against their employers. However there are certain situations when it can be justified. For example it is fine if you are speaking for a professional body or union, Mr Meirion Thomas was not. It is also wise to make it clear one is speaking as an individual and not name your employer, Mr Meirion Thomas did not do this. It is also unwise to use a photograph taken on your employer's premises, Mr Meirion Thomas may have been unwise on this. If one is a whistleblower one can justify speaking one, sadly Mr Meirion Thomas comes a country mile short of meeting any legal definition of a whistleblower.
When one effectively speaks under an employer's umbrella and risks harm to that employer's reputation by making ill informed and disparaging comments, then one has a recipe for being on extremely dubious legal ground. In this situation one's employer has a very strong case in bring disciplinary action against the employee, just as appears the case with Mr Meirion Thomas.
In summary the fact that the Mail and Spectator have totally ignored the key issue of employment law is highly suspicious, they are no idiots when it comes to legality, meaning the likely explanation involves Mr Meirion Thomas being a victim of media exploitation. Note that a story carries far more weight as 'surgeon X from hospital X' or an 'NHS' surgeon than a 'surgeon writing as an individual without his employer's approval'. The Mail and Spectator had much to gain, Mr Meirion Thomas had much to lose, I wonder.
Overall the talk of 'gagging' and 'free speech' by the likes of the Mail and Spectator is both disingenuous and highly obfuscatory. It appears highly likely that the Royal Marsden have acted entirely properly and have simply acted to protect their reputation by disciplining an individual who threatened to undermine that reputation by disparaging his medical colleagues. The talk of abuse, GMC referral and the rest is all a neat distraction tactic, there are idiots on both sides throwing around needless abusive insults. The bottom line here is that employment law is the key and it dictates that employers have every right to act to protect their reputations in cases like this.