You will never convince me that a TV show about our NHS is somehow old fashioned - Christa Ackroyd

I’ve always loved TV hospital dramas. I put it down to Richard Chamberlain, my first crush.

Public support for our NHS workers has arguably never been stronger and Christa Ackroyd says this is reflected in our TV dramas. (Picture: PA wire).
Public support for our NHS workers has arguably never been stronger and Christa Ackroyd says this is reflected in our TV dramas. (Picture: PA wire).

Of course I later progressed to having posters of David Cassidy and Starsky and Hutch on my bedroom wall. But Dr Kildare always held a special place in my heart. I’ve just looked up the date. I must have been about nine!

Down the years there followed Emergency – Ward Ten, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Angels (starring my very good friend Kathryn Apanowicz) and many more.

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My favourite show at the moment is Call the Midwife. And who doesn’t love a spot of Casualty on a Saturday night?

Not for real, of course. It’s too often filled with drunks and people fighting, which has meant paramedics are having to be provided with body cameras. Disgraceful.

And don’t forget Doctors after the lunchtime news. That, too, has been a pandemic appointment worth keeping.

This week the BBC decided one of the longest-running hospital soaps, Holby City, is to be scrapped after 22 years. All good things must come to an end, you might say, and it has been good, winning awards galore and attracting a dedicated band of followers who are now up in arms at its passing.

But it is the reason behind the decision which is a little hard to swallow. According to the BBC, it is to make way for programmes that “better reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country”.

And that is what sticks in my throat. What better serves and represents the very best of this country than our wonderful National Health Service? To suggest a drama about the NHS no longer reflects what is important to us is stuff and nonsense.

Last week our family remembered events that nearly cost my husband his life exactly three years ago.

Collapsing in agony, it was thought he had suffered a heart attack or a stroke. Instead the whole of his aorta, the main artery carrying blood to his vital organs, had peeled away like the layers of an onion.

The condition, an aortic dissection, was, we were told, life threatening and imminently life ending. Pioneering surgery using a breathable stent from top to bottom, though dangerous and lasting seven hours, means he is fit, well and living a normal life.

In the operating theatre were three consultants, a vascular radiologist and a team of nurses. I dread to think how much that surgery and the six weeks he spent in hospital would have cost. But it was free on the NHS, the best the world has to offer.

A friend of mine has just been prescribed life-saving drugs which in the US cost around £10,000 a month. But not here. And of course the news this week that a five-year-old boy called Arthur, who suffers from spinal muscle atrophy, is being given a drug considered the most expensive in the world at a cost of more than £1m a dose. This, too, is wonderful news. And it’s all on the NHS.

This week it was announced that 75 per cent of adults in the UK have received at least one coronavirus jab, thanks to the efficiency and care of the biggest vaccination programme undertaken by our National Health Service. In the same week we saw the first day without a Covid death since the pandemic began.

But if we, sitting at home, breathed a sigh of relief, just imagine the weary sense of achievement felt in our hospitals where overworked and, yes, underpaid nurses and doctors have battled a virus at great risk to themselves, not to mention their mental health, as they struggled to prevent our health service from being overwhelmed. But they did it. And not one patient was presented with a bill at the end of it.

Not so in the US where, until the new president stepped in, there were numerous reports of widows being sent hospital bills of tens of thousands of pounds, of insurance companies putting huge excess premiums for Covid care and, worse still, the uninsured, particularly the homeless, being left to die on the streets.

Unless you were there, I suspect we will never know the horrors of what has gone on in the emergency Covid wards in UK hospitals up and down the country or what the selfless doctors and nurses went through at times. I have seen nurses crying with exhaustion. I know of others who had long retired, stepping up to the call to join those fighting this awful disease.

In a way it almost seems like a film, a horror film, the sort I usually avoid. And no doubt in years to come we will forget, or at least put to the back of our minds, the darker moments of the past 15 months as life gets back to normal. Our nurses and doctors will live with those memories, I fear, forever.

And let’s be honest, there is more fuss being made, and more headlines written, about where we can go on holiday than the fact the nurses were offered a measly one per cent pay rise and now won’t hear whether that is to be increased until September at the earliest.

No wonder there are so many vacancies and no wonder so many doctors are planning a career break or looking to leave the profession altogether when a junior doctor earns less than £30,000 a year but has been thrust on to the front line during the pandemic.

So change the format. Bring in the best writers. Jed Mercurio springs to mind. Let’s see if he can do for the hospital drama what he has done for policing.

Until then, you will never convince me that a TV show about our National Health Service is somehow old fashioned and not reflective of the best of British, which, let’s face it, the BBC is supposed to aspire to.