It’s the sunniest day for weeks and instead of soaking it up in the garden we are in outpatients.

We’re here for a follow up on my wife’s operation that she had to remove gallstones. It should have been key hole surgery but there were complications, open surgery followed by an infection but six weeks later the scare has healed up nicely and here we are at the hospital.

A positive start; it’s a touch screen electronic registration which would make our process more efficient. However the message comes up: “report to reception” – not so efficient then.

Reception examines our letter from the consultant and informs us we are in the wrong place. “You need to go to ‘Shaftsbury’ - end of the corridor, turn left.”

We see the signpost for Shaftsbury and then McMillan cancer information centre. We present the consultant’s letter and the receptionist checks are details and confirms she has Brenda’s medical notes. “Take a seat and you will be called.”

There is no one else in this smartly furnished waiting area and the first thing we notice is that there are neat racks of leaflets, all of them about cancer! Why have they sent us here?

If there was a problem with the post-op test they would have informed our GP first, wouldn’t they?

My wife is convinced she has cancer - why else would they send us to the cancer outpatients clinic?

There was no mix up, the receptionist has her notes and the date of birth and address are correct. I try and reassure her by saying there is no way they would let anyone find out they had cancer this way - but I am not convincing her, or myself.

There follows an extremely long ten minutes filled with dread and anxiety before we are invited to see the doctor. We are shown into a consulting room and informed by the nurse that the doctor will be along shortly. We take a sneaky look at the notes she has left; they say “refer to specialist” - andwe fear the worst.

Through panic I announce: “This is the cancer unit.”

However the response was astonishing. “We get complaints about this all the time, it has been raised with the chief executive. This is the biggest outpatients unit so when the others are busy we use these consulting rooms. You don’t have cancer. This is just a courtesy follow up because your op had complications.”

If I hadn’t been so relieved, I would have set off looking to kick that chief executive somewhere very painful.

All is not as it seems behind chief executive closed doors

The most interesting conversations, the ones that provide a real insight are when senior managers go off the record.

When a director or chief executive comes to give a talk to colleagues from other organisations and starts by confirming Chatham House rules apply, you know it is going to have been worth turning up.

If you are in a management learning set or on an MBA course this hour will be one of the very few occasions you get to learn about what it is really like to be a senior manager operating in a political environment.

The session will be part gossip, part Machiavellian manoeuvres - with the odd reference to some skeletons in cupboards - and part learning some valuable lessons.

You might get the real story about why the last chief executive left, how the leader of the council was ousted by their own party and how deals were struck in deciding who got what job in the cabinet.

You may learn how much influence a local MP has; who plays golf with the editor of the local paper and who drinks with the regional trade union organiser. Or that when something big goes wrong, like the death of a child in care, what makes some local authorities stand by their chief officers whilst others throw then to the wolves.

Of course you can’t repeat any of this or say who told you but you will listen to reports in the media in a different way, and when you hear those carefully worded press statements you will be able to read between the lines.