It was a vintage piece of political theatre when a photocall by David Cameron and Nick Clegg at Guy's Hospital was disrupted last week by a disgruntled consultant objecting to the poor compliance of the camera crew with hygiene regulations. A clip of the incident went viral on YouTube.
But it has ended badly for David Nunn, the 57-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, who has now unexpectedly gone on leave – and for his NHS patients who now face longer waits to be seen by his hard-pressed colleagues.
The London hospital yesterday insisted Mr Nunn's sudden departure was at his own request. But a patient who contacted i said a doctor in the orthopaedic department had used the term "gardening leave" to explain Mr Nunn's absence and claimed he had been "reprimanded" by managers at the trust.
Peter Hodgson, 63, a retired tie manufacturer from Clapham, south London, was seen by Mr Nunn for a hip replacement on the morning of the Prime Minister's visit on 14 June. He returned for a follow-up appointment a week later.
He said: "Mr Nunn was not there and we were told there was a one and a half hour delay. I asked the registrar where he was and he said that Mr Nunn was on gardening leave and had been reprimanded for what he did last week."
"So the very best knee and hip man in London has been suspended, in effect, for telling the people with the Prime Minister to roll up their sleeves and remove their ties because they were not hygienic. And now the rest of the NHS is suffering."
Mr Nunn, who has a private practice at The London Bridge Hospital in addition to his NHS duties, appeared to be still at work yesterday morning. A secretary at the hospital said he was "doing a ward round".
However, Guy's and St Thomas' Trust said in a statement that Mr Nunn was "currently on leave" and his patients would be managed by colleagues during his absence.
It added: "If we feel any patients would benefit from treatment at another NHS trust, we will refer them to the appropriate consultant."