16 JUNE 1990, Page 8


Have you had your bottom line inspected yet?


Perhaps I misread news reports of the second great police conference on the subject of the Bogus Bottom Inspectors crisis which occupied so much space in the vulgar press about a month ago. The police, you see, have to follow up these momentary frenzies. What seemed a good headline in a slack week leading to a three-day wonder and general stampede, is generally forgotten by press and public alike within the fortnight. But then Ques- tions are Asked in the House by MPs who have been telephoned for quotes by the Sun, answers and ministerial assurances are given and massive resources allocated. As often as not, we have a stream of officious and oppressive legislation, with further penalties all round, as in the case of Mr Hurd's hysteria after the Hungerford massacre.

The Bogus Bottom Inspectors crisis shock horror scandal, for those who have already forgotten, involved complaints by parents that they had received visits from people falsely claiming to be official Bot- tom Inspectors from the local welfare department, who demanded to inspect their children's bottoms for evidence of sexual abuse. What really annoyed the parents was that they were bogus. If they had been genuine, properly qualified, trained in the Higgs Anal Dilatation tech- nique, the parents would have complied happily enough. As it was, however, the scare spread like wildfire. There were rumours of a nation-wide network of per- verts, fiends and monsters, conspiring together to supply child brothels on the Continong with British kiddies. The idea was that the bogus official, having express- ed dissatisfaction with the result of his inspection, would pretend to take the child into care, while actually smuggling it away to Hamburg or Frankfurt, no doubt using the Channel Tunnel when opened for his fell purposes. . . .

Well, the second grand police confer- ence on the Bogus Bottom Inspectors crisis met in Sheffield last week, with officers from 23 forces being present. It would be interesting to learn what it cost in police time, travel and hotel expenses. They heard that in the popular frenzy which followed press reports of the first incidents, 173 complaints about bogus Bottom In- spectors had been received.

Mr Martin Davies, assistant Chief Con- stable of the South Yorkshire force co- ordinating enquiries, said that many pa- rents had mistaken genuine callers for bogus ones. He explained that after en- quiries 'out of 173 reports there are only 18 that now cause us real concern. In each of those, a child has been physically examined in its home.' He refused to criticise people who had reported genuine officials in the belief that they were bogus:

From what has been said and written I can understand their concern. You cannot criti- cise anyone for showing genuine concern for the welfare of their children.

If I understand Mr Davies correctly, the fact that 18 of these bottom inspections or attempted bottom inspections are now thought to have been hoaxes implies that anything up to 155 of them were genuine. In other words, local authority workers do call at selected homes out of the blue, demanding to inspect the bottoms of chil- dren.

The objection to the activities of the pervert-monster-fiends in inspecting bot- toms when unqualified to do so and with- out proper authority is that they might do serious psychological harm to the children inspected. Many people may be puzzled to know why British kiddies should be more traumatised by an unofficial bottom in- spection than by an official one. I suppose that if the fiend or pervert burst out laughing in the middle, that might be disconcerting. But the real answer to that question, if there is an answer, would involve a protracted enquiry into the psychology of the welfare state and the extent to which its accompanying welfare philosophy is slowly turning us all into slaves — welfare workers, doctors and Bottom Inspectors, as well as their cases, patients and victims.

A GP in Wiltshire, who shall be name- less, has sent me a copy of the new enquiry which, in one form or another, every GP in the country must conduct about all his patients who are over 75. Under Mr Clarke's new contract, everyone over 75 has to be 're-assessed' every year, whether he has visited his doctor or not. This means either that the GP must make a home call to re-assess him or the patients must be summoned to the surgery. He (or she, of course) is then assessed under the follow- ing headings, being marked out of five for each:

Level of independence: bathing ability; mobility; exercise; hobbies/interests; diet; fluid intake; smoking; alcohol; weight maintenance; bowels; continence; hearing; vision; teeth; feet; speech; breathing; sleep pattern; memory and orientation; accom- modation; home safety; income; heating; awareness of benefits; family relationship; bereavement; responsibilities as carer; social contacts; life satisfaction.

The last section, for instance, is marked thus: Enjoying this time 1; Accepted this time 2; Some depression 4; Rejecting this time 5.

One can imagine how long it must take the GP to conduct the enquiry and fill in the form, which he must do in the case of every single patient over 75, whether the patient has complained of anything or not. Then, having filled in the form, he puts it in his drawer where it can be inspected by the appropriate NHS form inspector. There is no suggestion that either the GP, or the form inspector, or anyone else will be able to do anything about the informa- tion it contains. If accommodation is 'suit- able for needs' (1) or 'grossly unsuitable' (5) so be it. Ditto if the patient has no bereavement (1) or is coming to terms with it (2), grieving helplessly (4) or barely coping (5).

The plan behind it all is to get GPs out to visit the old dears, even if a substantial portion do not want to be visited. The same is true of women who do not want cervical smears. They must be chased and badgered until they agree. No doubt the inspiration is benevolent, but the effect of this explosion of welfare is to ensure that patients who are genuinely ill, or think they are, get very short shrift indeed.

It used to be joked that GPs saw 6 per cent of their patients 90 per cent of the time. Now that the non-attending 94 per cent must be hunted down in their homes and made to answer a huge list of imperti- nent questions of no relevance to services on offer, we can see how the disintegration and collapse of welfare services is rooted in their own philosophy, how the gigantic increase in bureaucratic administration at the expense of medicine is the ineluctable result of offering free medicine in the first place.

Far from adding to human dignity, state welfare ultimately destroys it, making neg- lected and useless slaves of doctors, admi- nistrators and patients alike.