Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Men in Black - Strangled by official millstones

I helped catch a fraudster last week. I was going to tell you what happened but thought better of it because of (a) patient confidentiality and (b) sub judice rules. So we have to pass on the interesting bit, and move on to the depressing bit - giving a statement.

These two geezers from the counter fraud office with NHS tags round their necks took one hour to write down what I could have typed in 10 minutes and dictated in 3 minutes. That's 3 hours of professional time for 2 pages of illegible block handwritten scrawl written down by the Bad Cop of the pair. At least he used a pen: most policemen have a 2" stub of pencil. They had "policeman" written all over them, and when I commented on this in an effort to establish a bit of human contact, the Good Cop said "Something like that". I gave him a second to elaborate, which he declined.

So I spent the rest of the time wondering who they had been before they became NHS Counter Fraud Officers. They did not look anything like Customs, who are usually quite jolly. Nor "Intelligence" Services, who usually, in my experience anyway, have obsessoid character disorders and often wear bizarre hats in a kind of plea for help. These two certainly had the look and psychological feel of policemen - as evidenced by the fact that they made me feel as if I was the miscreant, not the citizen without whom they would not have got their man. I even had to allow to the evidence given to be used in a disciplinary proceeding against me. "Just routine, you understand Richard".

I used to get on really well with police. I recall once being at a CND protest outside a Tory party meeting in Bristol (complaining because the Tory had not spoken out against the French nuclear tests) and the Tories called out the riot police. This caused us to decide (outnumbered three to one as we were) to leave quietly, and as we crept unobtrusively past the rows of shields and helmets, one of them said "Hello doctor, didn't expect to see you here". One of my patients.

Anyway 3 hours of professional time spent in writing down evidence on a fraud, and there were scores of other doctors that this alleged fraudster had visited. Hundreds of hours of professional time wasted in statement taking by means of old technology, and days tainted by bad vibes.

Maybe it wasn't as bad as that. Maybe I have just become psychically sensitised to people with NHS tags round their necks.

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