Thursday, 28 January 2010

A message and a bottle.

I haven't been to the doctor for a very long time. Occasionally I get 'Are you dead?' letters and invitations to have my blood pressure and cholesterol checked. I ignore them. At my age and with the current fetish for treating every deviation from perfection as an illness, it's certain they'll find something wrong with me. If I get sick I'll call in. Otherwise I see no reason to occupy the doctor's time, nor do I have any desire to sit in a waiting room full of sick people.

Today, a letter arrived.

Oh, a questionnaire. I assumed it would be along the lines of 'Are there any hereditary diseases in your family, a propensity to heart attacks, stroke, or cancer perhaps?'. You know, the sort of things doctors used to ask about in the old days.

Maybe it would be along the lines of 'You haven't been ill for years. What's wrong with you? Are you some kind of freak? Get out there and fall over something or catch something. Are you trying to put us out of a job?'

It was a single sheet of paper so I'd never have found the questionnaire if it hadn't had that handy PTO and arrow printed large there. So, my intelligence already insulted, I turned it over.

It should enlarge if you click on it. There's no need, really. It has two questions - do you smoke, and what kind of ethnic are you. That's it. As I read it, I can opt out of answering the ethnic question, which just leaves one question.

I'll answer that question and send it back. I am going to lie. I am going to tick 'ex-smoker' and if I should have the misfortune to have to visit a doctor, I will always say I have stopped smoking.

In a sense, that's always true. I can't smoke indoors except at home and at the Smoky Drinky places therefore every time I enter any other building, I stop smoking. I start again after I leave but since I'll only ever discuss my health with a doctor indoors, at that point in time I am not able to smoke and have therefore stopped smoking. Not 'given up'. Stopped. It's different.

They will always ask 'Do you smoke?'

My answer: 'I have stopped. I have an Electrofag. Would you like a demonstration?'

'Do you drink?'

'Not for some time now' (where 'some time' is defined as 'not in this waking period. Yet').

Assuming I don't die before he gets around to asking why I visited, he might even get the chance to do some actual doctoring. You never know. Although judging by Mummylonglegs' experience, it isn't likely. I wonder if, in among all the training in social engineering, medical students get the chance to learn about medicine too? I hope there's at least some of the original course left.

What I'd really like from the doctor is my death certificate so I can send a copy to the taxman. They're a bit strict on that one, unfortunately. You have to really be dead. They can spot it if you're faking, too.

The prepaid envelope goes to the 'data collation department' of the small health centre here. A Righteous title for the receptionist who has to sort the answers. Add to that the letter's claim that the information is added to your record and then 'held in the strictest of confidence' (oh, ha ha ha) and I think it's clear why I have no compunction about lying to these people.

The absolute killer is the first line of the letter. 'The Government requires...' I should be rushing to provide the government with information irrelevant to the function of government? I should consider my answers carefully and not lie to the government? Why? They have no problem lying to me.

They have made my life a misery for years. Now they are tracking smokers, and I, for one, have become too suspicious of their motives to put my head out with a target on it.

Besides, if every smoker took the same line, what justification would there be for funding ASH? The government's own figures would show we don't exist.

That's the message. Now for the bottle.

It contains - or to be more accurate it now mostly contains - Aberlour 10-year-old. It was, after all, a successful day.

Update: I've only just noticed something. The letter has my name and address on the front. On the back, at the top of the form, is a space to write my name.

And my date of birth. From the doctor's office. Of all the people who should already know that, surely the doctor's office has to be top of the list?

I think a little test is in order. Will they notice if I fill in the wrong name and date? Risky, mind, they might just send the padded van.


PJH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PJH said...

Let's try that again, while remembering where I am....


As I read it, I can opt out of answering the ethnic question, which just leaves one question.

As I read it, that box "If you do not wish to give this information, please tick here" applies to both questions.

Just tick that, sign if you can be bothered, and send it off.

Apropos of nothing, something I haven't seen mentioned anywhere yet:


LIGHTING up a cigarette in your own home could soon see you given a strict telling off.

Council staff in Gateshead are to be trained in how to order smokers to put out their cigarette when the council visits.


It would see everyone from gardeners to social workers trained to order smokers to put out their cigarette when council staff visit.


In 2007, signs were even put up in the Tyne Tunnel banning motorists from smoking on their drive.

They're coming for you, whether you like it or not.

subrosa said...

Thanks for that. The letter will be winging its way down the A90 sometime over the weekend possibly.

Surely we have a right to disregard requests for such information?

John Pickworth said...

"I can opt out of answering the ethnic question."


What's wrong with entering Scottish Chinese? ;-)

Actually, what's this Scottish/British thing about anyway? Same thing I would have assumed. Yeah I know its Scotland but still. You know what, write in 'Welsh Pakistani' (in mixed Welsh and Urdu naturally). Lets see Carol in the Data Collections Dept figure that out.

By the way, for the record; my doctor doesn't even know where I live. The last one I registered with is 200 miles away and he's probably dead now anyway.

Leg-iron said...

PJH - It could apply to both questions. The placing suggested (to me) that it only applied to the second one. Which might or might not be intentional.

Councils can come and give me a ticking off for smoking in my home if they like. I'll simply chainsmoke until they leave.

Subrosa - whether it's a right or not, I've disregarded all attempts by the medics to get me on drugs for years. This one gives me a chance to mess up the statistics. I can't let it pass.

JP - The ethnic groupings have 'other' sections. I wonder if I can find one they've missed?

Anonymous said...

Where's the tickbox if I think I may want to take up smoking at some point in the future? I feel my needs aren't being wholly met on this issue. :(

Anonymous said...

Leg-Iron, I'd buy your book.

Will you write it?

Leg-iron said...

Anon - one of of of us... now you can be one of us with no smoke, no nicotine and not even the taste of tobacco. With Electrofag you can smoke apple steam.

Fausty - I'm writing, and it'll be nasty. Whether any publisher's left when it's done, well, there are ways...

JuliaM said...

"I'll answer that question and send it back."

When you do, point out to them that there's an 'r' in 'Northern'..

Anonymous said...

Good grief, Leg-Iron. We are to have smoking inspectors, courtesy of the EU. FFS.

Snakey said...

I visited my dentist yesterday for a check up and was presented with a form to fill in. I had a read through the questions, got to the "how much do you smoke" and "how much do you drink" questions, read the disclaimer at the bottom which said my data would be shared within NHS departments and refused to fill in the form. I could have filled in the form and lied about my smoking (I don't drink but am not anti alcohol) but I simply couldn't be arsed co-operating with the nanny state anymore.

The two receptionists got into a right tizz telling me it was a requirement to fill in the form every 3 years and getting on their high horses about it. I have been going to this particular practice for 15 years and have never been asked to fill in this kind of form before.

I stated that I was not happy with some of the questions and the reply I got was if I didn't fill it in I wouldn't be seen by my dentist. They didn't ask me which questions I objected to or prove to me on what legal basis I was required to fill in their "monitoring" form in order to receive treatment. They would not listen to me or see reason so I was forced to announce (in front of a room full of people) that I would be using a different dentist (pretty difficult these days due to the long NHS queues).

I have not been happy with this dental practice for some time due to their air of "we work for the state despite being a private limited company" and we think we can order you about. Also, my dentist makes me feel like a pariah every time I go because I smoke, so it was no problem to me to sack them off.

I partly said no to see what they would do and boy was their reaction over the top. There was no medical reason for me to fill in the form (my health has not changed significantly for years) and therefore they refused to see a fit and healthy patient for a check up all because I wouldn't fill in their form. (It didn't seem to occur to them that I might need help with the form, that maybe I couldn't read, or that I just didn't like filling in forms. As far as they were concerned I had to fill it in).

It's time we all started saying NO to these people. They think they can make you suffer by withdrawing their treatment but as far as I am concerned they can stuff their forms and I will go private (where they are not required to force NHS nosey parker forms onto you for no good reason).

Letters From A Tory said...

I don't blame you for being suspicious, given that the data can only be used for suspicious purposes.

JuliaM said...

"It's time we all started saying NO to these people."

And complaining that you are being 'disavantaged', or 'discriminated against'.

Use their buzz words against them. They hate that...

Anonymous said...

I think if you are a smoker and you try to pretend you are not, they'll see through it.

It's the smell, you see; it tends to linger.

Simon said...

Hi Leg Iron

sounds like this is part of the NHS central spine which you CAN opt out of -

click here!


Anonymous said...

If you say you don't smoke, they use that to claim smoking prevalence is decreasing. Lying about smoking is recognised as a problem in New Zealand, a hot bed of Health Fascism - recently saw a paper about the issue. Must be a problem in US because of health insurance and being fired for being a smoker. I suggest not filling it in. If enough people did that, the system would collapse.

Anonymous said...

Woohoo! Great news!

You can always self-publish (isn't that what Dan Hannan/Douglas Carswell did?), although I defy any publisher to reject your writings!

Just Peachie said...

My teen hurt his knee. Doc called it a bad sprain, but gave him a referral for an MRI (barium) if it didn't improve in three weeks. Knee got better so didn't use referral. Last week a subtly threatening letter arrives from the corporation that owns the medical practice insinuating I'm a negligent parent (should they call the social services people?) for not doing the MRI. That's about wanting money.

Lucky me, my insurance pays for free consults with a nurse practioner and despite the fact the knee was fine I'd had that confirmed (for free) before I let him start playing tackle again.

I'd change doctors, but she's exceptionally good and it took me years to find her so I put up with the nasty medical corporation that employs her.

Anonymous said...

Voted re the 'smoke inspectors' - noticed most voters were anti them.
I also gave my doctor's practice an opt out letter about years ago I thin it was. Took it round in person, made them stamp it with the practice stamp then photocopy it & give me the photocopy. Initially they were very sniffy 'yes, well, we'll put it on your file' which why why I made them go through the rigmarole. It had also been in the local paper that one of the doctors in the practice thought the Spine was wonderful & couldn't wait to make use of it so I thought I'd just piss a little on her bonfire. Also got a couple of my friends at the same practice to bring in their letters.

John Pickworth said...

Apologies for adding this here. LI, might find it useful ;-)

Blackpool Gazette: Smoking ban blamed for rise in fires

You just have to laugh.

opsimath said...

I have been with a GP for more than 30 years now and don't see him all that often, even though things are breaking down and the writing on the wall becomes clearer each day.

I did have an appointment one Saturday morning, just before Christmas, and was asked by the receptionist for my ethnicity; I refused to answer and she said she felt bad about being made to ask.

What possible difference can it make to anything anyway? And, although doc and I are on first name terms, he asks me every time I visit if I'm a smoker, and makes a note on his PC. If he were to look he'd find a pretty odd mix, I can tell you. Funny thing, the NHS.

paulo said...

Wonderful stuff LI - yet again.

I will definitely purchase any book you care to publish.


thespecialone said...

I work for the state. I admit it. Does 28 yrs in the navy count? Had my own business for a while and am now a civil servant (I actually do produce something worthwhile believe it or not!). Even we get questionnaires about our sexuality and our 'lifestyle'. What the f*ck has it got to do with Brown? Why does the state need to know about my lifestyle outside of work (only if it actually has an affect on my work of course). Question is. Will Call Me Dave roll back the state or will we have more of the same? I dont go to the Dr too often but would certainly refuse to fill in any form. Twats.

Anonymous said...

Alas, not true, Anon 10.58. Think about it. If the old myth that all smokers walk around in a constant cloud of nicotine aroma were true, no doctor would ever have to ask any patient who visits them whether or not they smoke, would they? But they do. All the time. What does that tell you?

Hang on a minute, I think I’ve got another hook, line and sinker lying around somewhere that you might have a use for …….

Anonymous said...

Right about lying about the smoking. I broke my wrist years ago and the doctor asked if I smoked, I said yes and he tried to blame my injury on that! Of course, most of the PhDs these voodoo merchants have came from the backstreets of Calcutta so of course they were only following orders.

Suggestion to all though, tell the doctor you got depression from Brown's Britain, get a whole batch of valium and then sell them to the junkies.

You'll make money as well as stick one in the eye of the Gov't!

Paid for my Christmas just gone those little pills.

And when they ask for ethnicity, tick them all. Who knows what extra 'care' you can get? And then of course sell.

Doctors are intrusive at the worst of times (those GUM clinics are a chiller) yet that letter is a bit too much.

Surely they have seen you before?

Anonymous said...

Bad English, not paying attention... blimey, drinking, smoking and avoiding work really drains the old soul.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Oh f*** lying to them. Just tell the truth:

New GP: Do you smoke?

Me: yes

New GP [taken aback]: oh ... er... how many a day?

Me: I've never counted. How many rollies fo you get out of half an ounce? Well, a bit more than that.

New GP [dimly aware that most people understate the amount they smoke, calculating wildly and scribbling a huge number on the form] OK, and do you drink?

Me: Yes of course, about six cans of lager a day.

New GP [at his wits' end, knowing full well that most people understate by about two-thirds, scribbles down 'twenty cans a day'} OK, right, so what's the problem?

Me: No problem. I am in rudest of health, it's just my wife is a bit obsessive and wanted me to register with a new GP now we've moved to a different area.

Leg-iron said...

Lunaticarms - they have seen me before, but it was quite some time ago. I think most of their letters are checking if I'm still alive.

Mark - it's fun to fill in the forms and give different answers every time. I'm looking forward to that argument over semantics with a doctor one day.

Yes, I smoke, but I'm an ex-smoker. Unless I can smoke continuously I'm an ex-smoker the moment I put the cigarette out. Every time. I am a smoker when I'm smoking but since that's banned indoors, I'm a State-enforced non-smoker while inside. It is wrong and insulting to refer to me as a smoker when I am unable to smoke, because I am a non-smoker at the moment through State enforced rules... and so on. Round and round and round.

When he's shaking and in tears, we'll move on to the drinking questions. I have a glass of whisky in front of me now, I have drunk some and fully intend to drink the rest of it, but I'm a non-drinker at the moment because I'm using both hands to type and I don't have a straw...

Leg-iron said...

It's the smell, you see; it tends to linger.

As another anon pointed out, no, it doesn't. I have known girls (yes, really!) who didn't smoke and have been asked, many times, why I don't smell of smoke.

It's really very simple. I shower every day and change my clothes often.

The biology teacher at school smoked a pipe and his jacket reeked of pipe smoke. He wore that same jacket every day for months at a time.

The 'smell' is only to be found on people whose personal hygeine isn't up to par. It's nothing to do with smoking, everything to do with the individual.

I might be being unfair on that one. The stuff I work with makes me a bit paranoid about cleanliness so my idea of 'par' is likely to be higher than normal. I might be the only one left who still uses a boil wash for clothes!

Even so, the smoke, like any other smell, only lingers if you let it.

Laurence said...

You'll have perhaps missed the research this week that smokers are at risk from the secondary effects of passively smoking their own actively created primary smoke?

Apparently this secondary effect is roughly equivalent to an additional 2.4 cigarettes per day for somebody with a 20-a-day primary and active intake.

Can a 12% increase in excise duties be far away?

Leg-iron said...

Laurence - Is that for real? You mean we get 12% of the effects of smoking for free? Result!

One question you will never hear asked is this:

If passive smokers are dying at such a rate, why are smokers not dying at ten times that rate?

Because the answer is... it's all just made-up numbers.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Laurence said...

Yup! Here's the story but I got my numbers wrong, sorry:

(sorry, don't know how to do hyperlinks)

In fact, rather than the 12% I misremembered when I posted my previous comment, there's more than an 18% iniquity hike to be had from the secondary awfulness of the primary crime.

Laurence said...

I think I managed to prove I can't do link, eh?

If you want to find the story this:

Maria Teresa Piccardo from the National Cancer Research Institute in Genoa

should work in Google.

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