Sickness and Wealth

"Sickness and Wealth"
Only Fools and Horses episode
Episode no. Series 6
Episode 5
Directed by Tony Dow
Written by John Sullivan
Produced by Gareth Gwenlan
Original air date 5 February 1989
(18.2 million viewers)
Running time

50 minutes

  • 49:07: (iTunes)
  • 56:43 (extended version, DVD)

"Sickness and Wealth" is an episode of the BBC sit-com, Only Fools and Horses. It was the fifth episode of series 6, and was first broadcast on 5 February 1989. In the episode, Del is suffering from stomach cramps, but refuses to see a doctor. Elsewhere, Del organises a seance.


Del Boy is suffering from a mysterious illness that is giving him stomach pains, but he refuses to admit to it or go to see a doctor because he is scared of them. He is also under a great deal of stress; his recent line in women's summer fashion has not been selling well with all the frost and sleet and he has been unable to pay the rent on the flat for the past three months. In spite of the fact that he, Rodney, and Albert are facing the possibility of eviction, Del is still living the yuppy lifestyle, eating in the curry houses and bistros, and drinking and buying rounds in wine bars and pubs, all on the slate, causing further debts.

Over a Chinese Del learns that Albert's new girlfriend Elsie Partridge used to be a medium in the 1960s and thinks their bathroom is haunted (though the council installing their extractor fan the wrong way round might have something to do with it), and he instantly sees it as a chance to make money and the answer to his financial worries.

Having convinced Elsie Partridge, Del holds a 'dummy run' séance with all the regular cast (Trigger, Boycie, Rodney, Mike and Uncle Albert) in the hall above the Nag's Head pub. Mike is concerned about 'messing with the forces of darkness' due to the pub being built on the site of a public grave for victims of the Great Plague, but Del and Boycie laugh off his and Rodney’s concerns. At the séance Elsie gives Boycie a message from his father that Boycie must look after his child (it was previously established that Boycie and his wife Marlene could not have children) and then gives Del a message from his late mother Joan prompting him to go to the doctors. Del still refuses to believe in Elsie until Marlene announces she is pregnant, thus confirming his fears that he may be genuinely ill (the message from Joan was actually a ploy by Albert to make Del see sense, as he tells Elsie that the only person Del would ever listen to was his mother).

Del goes to see his GP, Dr. Meadows, only to find he's left general practice and gone to work at the local hospital, and a young Indian woman has taken his place. Del's nervous jokes fail to impress her and during the examination he lies to her repeatedly about his life-style, pretending he is a tee-total, celibate health-nut and non-smoker. She sends him to hospital thinking he might have a grumbling appendix but after testing Del the doctors prove this false and can't seem to diagnose what is wrong with him. In a discussion in the Nag's Head, Uncle Albert suggests it might be Green Parrot Disease.

Rodney, Albert, and Cassandra visit Del in hospital, and Del worries that he might have contracted AIDS (although he never states the illness by name) from his promiscuous past (and a male hairdresser called Jason). He also finds out that the 'pukka seance' went badly wrong after a mix-up because of Del's posters, which led a group of punk rockers to turn up thinking they were seeing an Iron Maiden-esque band instead of Elsie Partridge (though as Rodney quips "Fortunately she remained in a trance throughout the riot!").

Whilst still worrying about his health, Del is finally approached by his former GP, Robbie Meadows. Having heard Del's name crop up in conversations with his colleagues, Meadows has asked to see Del's medical file and has subsequently been put in charge of his case, being as Del is his former patient. Knowing Del as he does, and that he is not in fact the celibate health-freak he has made himself out to be to the other doctors, Meadows is quickly able to diagnose Del with having Irritable Bowel Syndrome caused by his stressful, unhealthy lifestyle. Meadows mildly scolds Del for lying to his GP, telling him that because he had not been truthful about his lifestyle, Del had confused the doctors handling his case since they believed they were dealing with the "perfect man", and had he been honest from the start his diagnosis would have taken far less time. Warning him to actively lead a healthier lifestyle, Meadows then reveals that he has phoned the Council, who have given Del some breathing space with regard to his rent arrears. He then discharges Del, who after an initial macho posture of claiming that he knew he was really alright, breaks down in tears of relief.

A few days later, back at Nelson Mandela House, a housebound Del is disgusted at his Muesli diet and taking it easy but is getting better, until Rodney comes home and announces he is getting married.

Story arc

Edits and Alterations

A repeat that aired on 5 March 2013 on BBC One removed around two seconds of dialog referring to the disgraced TV and Radio personality Jimmy Savile. This was done as a response to sexual abuse allegations against the late DJ. However, subsequent repeats of the episode have aired intact on the digital Channel G.O.L.D.


Further reading

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