THE VIEW FROM HEREIT'S hard to keep a secret these days. We know our rights when it comes to finding things out and can summon up the Freedom of Information Act any time we like.
This piece of legislation was designed to provide greater honesty and transparency but it is also a potential two-edged sword. Admirably effective when it comes to winkling out uncomfortable truths but not always as desirable in matters of national security or, indeed, a person’s right to privacy.
Privacy is a precious commodity and, despite the Data Protection Act, there’s not a lot you can keep to yourself.
Once it was possible for an actress to conceal her date of birth, even to the grave. Now it’s all out there, available to the whole world at the click of a mouse, everything from how old you are to the price you paid for your new house.
We shall have to wait and see whether the government NHS reforms will be good for the nation’s health but a patient’s absolute right to access their medical records will undoubtedly be part of the deal. It’s been a long time since GPs withheld even the most basic information, viewing any question with complete disdain.
"Your blood pressure? Oh, these are medical details — just take these tablets. Are you going to die? Oh, come now, I don’t think we need to discuss that either."
As patients grew bolder and demanded their rights, doctors became very devious. They started to use acronyms on medical notes, which used to bamboozle the layman into thinking they were specialist terms which could only be understood by a qualified practitioner.
But with the spread of internet information, it was soon easy to discover that FLK on your child’s notes meant "funny looking kid", often the result of a union between HIVI ("husband is village idiot") and HMF ("hysterical mother figure"). Not to be confused with BFH ("brat from hell") the offspring of PFH ("parents from hell").
It was never good news if you were PBS ("pretty bad shape") but at least an improvement on T F BUNDY ("totally ****ed up but unfortunately not dead yet").
And how humiliating to be classed as the doctor’s recurring nightmare that is a FABIAN ("felt awful but is all right now").
But they daren’t use these codes any more and we’re all allowed to look at absolutely everything. This is terrific for patients formerly classed as ABITHAD ("another blithering idiot, thinks he’s a doctor") but less good for those of us who are not keen on too much information.
I am certain doctors have had to develop new and more cunning codes and am thus consumed with suspicion about even the most innocuous comment.
I recently received a copy of a letter in which a consultant, writing to another practitioner, described me as "delightful". Far from being flattered, I have been fretting ever since I read this.
Is "delightful" the new medi-speak for what used to be referred to as AWTF ("away with the fairies.")? Does he think I’m nuts?
Perhaps the Freedom of Information Act will assist me further. Really, though, I yearn for the days when you came out from the doctor with a prescription and absolutely no idea of what might be the matter with you.
Best not to disagree with Mr Hague
SEE, I told you, didn’t I? It was only last week I expressed misgivings about chief executive Steve Beynon’s lengthy defence of the way in which the council’s resource director, Dave Burbage, receives his £100K-plus salary via his own consultancy firm. I knew it was a rotten idea to imagine this would, in Mr Beynon’s words, "put an end to the continued speculation". Talk about tempting fate.
Fate actually didn’t need much tempting to advance upon the unfortunate Messrs Beynon and Burbage. Within days of Steve’s protestations, it was revealed that a Treasury review will examine the extent to which the salaries of civil servants are channelled into tax-efficient private firms and is expected to recommend the termination of these schemes, even if they lead to a net financial gain for government departments.
This was smartly followed up by the foreign secretary, William Hague, publicly condemning the practice of setting up companies through which to siphon salaries.
"I’m not very fond of that sort of behaviour," he said in a TV interview last weekend.
Please, Steve, don’t answer back. We couldn’t make head nor tail of what you said last time round and it didn’t do you any good, anyway. Everyone’s still frightfully cross and now you’ve got the foreign secretary on your case.
I should lie low if I were you. And tell Dave to do the same. Mr Hague’s got gunboats at his disposal, you know.