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?