Ridding ourselves of the 'red tape' worm

If you believe the Government – any Government in fact – we are all entangled in webbing made of regulation red tape that makes us look like one of those mummies emerging from a tomb in a 60s Hanna Barbara cartoon. 

However, I can’t help but agree on this occasion.  

I don’t know about you, but returning home in the evenings can become a rather painful process of physically and psychologically shedding the red tape of the day.  Even my dogs check the public notices at entrances to parks these days, so sensitised have they become to life in Britain circa 2011. 

But it is not the known regulations I worry about; there are regulations we know we know.  And we also know there are regulations that are unknown to us; that is to say we know there are some regulations we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknown regulations – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.  Now, they are the ones that scare me.

And in my opinion, it is often the case that someone’s interpretation of a known regulation can make it become an unknown unknown regulation.  I even came up with a new metaphor for how it is affecting our lives – the ‘red tape worm’ – after reading this week’s excellent issue of Eureka about cyberwarfare and computer viruses.  I must put that in writing to the new Health Research Agency when it is established this year.

Do you follow?  Well, don’t worry if you don’t because you have a chance to cut red tape for yourself – just like pruning the spring shrubs – at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills new ‘Challenge Red Tape Website.’  Health and social care comes up on June 23rd.

On a more serious note, I would probably put the rules that have often stood in the way of patients and members of the public receiving some form of reimbursement to be involved in research, as an example of a known regulation that has, historically, become a baffling set of unknown unknown regulations.  First, because of the way the rules have been interpreted up and down the country.  Second, because of the way that the way that the Department for Work and Pensions (whose acronym of DWP sounds perversely like a socialist party) dragged its feet to find a way through the mess.  Yes, this is an issue which has ‘form’ (pun fully intended) as they say in the police.

However, I am pleased to say that we are now seem in a better place.  And the excellent INVOLVE have this week published a rather splendid guide entitled ‘What you need to know about payment: an introductory guide for members of the public who are considering active involvement in NHS, public health or social care research’ which you can find on their website.

I’m off to shed my regulations as they say.

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