Mr Spock wouldn't give one

To hope you live in interesting times is, some claim, a Confucian curse.

As we await installation of employment advisers, I recall an interesting incident a couple of years ago. Miss Limp wanted a sick note, she told me, because she had a limp. Wondering whether perhaps I had had one of those mental lapses we all experience when the Mars Bar to Mars Bar interval lengthens unacceptably, I asked her to walk across the room. She obliged faultlessly. 'So,' she said, 'where's the sick note?'

I raised an expressive eyebrow, modelling myself on Mr Spock in Star Trek when Bones had just informed him that the ship didn't have enough power to escape the green corrosive gloop into which they were sinking on the Planet Blarg. 'Well,' quoth I. 'Where's the limp?'

She blinked slightly. 'It doesn't show,' she said mysteriously, 'but my son is autistic and my mother-in-law has cancer so I can't work.'

Would you have caved in? This poor woman, forced to fake a limp that had so far netted her 23 weeks' worth of sick notes (the last two accompanied by 'absolutely the last sick note' in a colleague's hand), was clearly desperate.

On the other hand, I knew the mother-in-law well. She did sadly have cancer, but Miss Limp did not feature even slightly in her care. As for the son, he was 12 and not autistic but being seen at the CDC for speech delay put down to obesity, large tonsils and some shortage of IQ.

The latter, I felt, was a hereditary trait.

'I can't issue a sick note,' I said, going boldly where no man had gone before.

The ensuing 20 minutes doesn't bear repeat. Suffice to say that had I been part submerged in corrosive gloop on the Planet Blarg I'd have been having a ball by comparison. But eventually she left - sans sick note, sans limp, but vowing to 'see about this'. Triumphantly I wrote, 'sick note refused'.

At coffee time her mother rang. They were reporting me to the GMC. 'What for?' I asked. I didn't bother with the eyebrow, as this was the telephone.

'Dereliction of duty,' shouted the mother, adding that the Citizen's Advice Bureau had advised them to sue me.

All good news, I felt, as the practice staff goggled.

I did receive one letter from Citizen's Advice asking me to reconsider since this poor woman had a terrible limp but I demurred. But reader, it was the most cut-and-dried sick note refusal ever and it took a full half-hour. The future looks interesting.

- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at

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