18. With reference to the recent Francis report, if he will investigate (a) the case of Meirion Thomas at the Royal Marsden hospital and (b) cases where staff have been disciplined or required to sign confidentiality agreements. (907661)
The Government welcome any individual who has the courage to shine a light on malpractice, wrongdoing or patient safety issues in the NHS, and the House will be well aware that that is something the Secretary of State has very much championed. Professor Thomas has a right to express his views on the health service and on wider issues, and I understand that the trust has confirmed that. The Department is not responsible for investigating cases involving individual members of staff, but I want to be clear that confidentiality agreements cannot be used to prevent individuals from making a protected disclosure in the public interest.
I am glad to hear that, and I note that the Secretary of State has had dealings with Professor Thomas. However, I think it is very important that this is looked at closely in the light of the Francis report. If it is the case, as is said in media reports, that Professor Thomas has been forced to sign a confidentiality agreement—a so-called gagging order—I think that is disgraceful and shows a very dire state in the NHS in the Royal Marsden. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on that.