Philosophy of The Big Society

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Sunday, 19 April 2009

Doctor's receptionist awarded honorary medical degree

Friend sent me through this story, hot off the press of News Biscuit (

The British Medical Association has awarded its first honorary degree to Susan James a 54-year-old receptionist at a South London doctor’s surgery. Mrs James was given the award after demonstrating an extraordinary ability to diagnose patient’s illnesses within seconds of meeting them. Almost without exception she was able to deduce that the patients were nowhere near as ill as they thought they were and so did not need to see the doctor.

‘It seems insane that the Health Service spends so much on blood tests, x-rays, explorative surgery or whatever when Mrs James could just give them a quick once over and tell them they’ve probably just got a cold.’ said the Chief Accountant of her Local Health Authority. ‘There was one man who came into Mrs James walk-in surgery complaining of a tightness in the chest, shortage of breath and claiming he’d passed out a couple of times. Mrs James told him that men always make a big fuss about feeling slightly ill and that it was just a hangover. We never saw him again.’

In awarding her with an honorary medical degree the BMA singled out Susan James’s unwavering adherence to her Medical Receptionist’s Oath that required her to ask loudly what was wrong with each patient, often making them repeat it several times for the amusement and education of other people in the waiting room. She would always keep patients up to date with how long they had to wait, shouting ‘Scabies man – you’re next OK? Then it’s you haemorrhoids!’

Susan was self-effacing about the award saying that she was only doing her job and admitting most people thank her for her interference in the end. On the subject of several divorces brought about by Susan’s disclosure of medical records to spouses of patients she was less forthcoming. ‘I’m not the one who visited Amsterdam on a stag night and slept with a prostitute am I?’ she said. ‘Why should I feel guilty for telling everyone the facts down at the hairdressers?


  1. Excellent piece of satire! Both my fathers liked it too!

  2. Frightened Patient19 April 2009 at 17:57

    Looks like the receptionist at the Parkview surgery in Lewisham, South London. She has darker hair but the same uncanny ability to diagnose and get rid of patients for doctor before they open their mouths. I think she is in line for a Harold Shipman award for lifetime contribution to patient care.

  3. Hi Robert

    I just love Newsbiscuit. When I have been re-united with my other father will let you know what he thinks of it. :>)

  4. FP

    I gather the Harold Shipman award for Lifetime Contribution to Patient Care is much sought after. Certainly, there are a few very worthy candidates I would like to put forward.

    And what is it with lacquered hair? Do hair product companies do a group discount?

  5. They don't have lacquer in my surgery just the look that says "oh no not you again" !! The receptionists at the health centre where I have CMHT appts, are lovely and actually know my name.Mind you I am a bit put off by the fact that mental health patients share same waiting room with those needing replacement batteries for hearing aids, speech therapy kids and podiatrist clinic patients.Not to mention 'Breastfeeding corner' !!!
    Rant over, Paranormal Cocktail has kicked in !
    Love Sis x

  6. Actually Sis,

    The receptionists/secretaries at my CMHT are pretty helpful. They certainly try to be when I phone up.

    I read a leaflet, the last time I was at the CMHT building, saying they were going to be merging the mid and south Beds teams. Can't help wondering where that building is going to be?...Particulary, as it will most probably mean that most patients will have to travel further for appointments.

    I also wonder if it will be a new building..and how much that is going to cost?

    Still, all in the name of progress eh?


  7. Hats off to Susan! she is 54 and stands as an example for many..thanks dude..she seems to be very energetic!!

    Medical Job Descriptions