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NHS under the microscope in new OU/BBC documentary

From A&E overcrowding, to cancelled operations and morally complex medical ethics, Hospital is the story of the NHS in exceptional times. The six-part series provides an insight into the ever-increasing demands on the NHS service with unique access to one of the UK’s biggest and busiest NHS Trusts, Imperial College Healthcare, London. The first episode will be broadcast on BBC Two on Wednesday 11 January 2017, 21:00.

Academic consultant on the programme and lecturer in the Faculty of WELS, Dr Rajvinder Samra, provides an insight into this fascinating documentary.


What does being an ‘academic consultant’ for a BBC series entail?

“I was involved with the series after it had been commissioned, but before filming. Of course, lots of work had already gone into it in terms of planning by that point, but, as an academic consultant, you have a duty to ensuring that the storyline is both clear and logical for its audience.

“As an academic consultant, I had the unique opportunity of seeing how the production took shape and to help steer the direction of each episode, providing guidance to the producers on topical issues in the healthcare sector. It was great to be one of a select few to have supported the development of such an interesting series.”

What themes does Hospital raise?

“The series raises incredibly timely themes as we see individuals making life and death decisions based on economic and physical constraints, which mean that not everyone can get the care that you would want for them. We see how difficult it is to manage the daily pressures in a busy hospital, which requires a combination of meticulous planning, organisation, and luck.

“The series focuses on the need to prioritise the care provided, which is heart-breaking to watch, and offers us a small window into how difficult it is for staff who want to offer the best care for all the hospital patients.

“Audiences will also have an opportunity to see the journey of patients and their families. Themes of compassion, gratitude, and kindness are overwhelming throughout the series, which is what is really amazing about it.”

 What will audiences learn as a result of watching Hospital?

“The series provides a 360 degree view of how a hospital works. We may feel we understand the operations of a hospital, but this programme shows us how one decision, such as being allocated or not being allocated a bed on a trauma ward, can affect so many individuals.

“Ultimately, this series shows the complexities of making care decisions, and, as it says in the series, it can be a challenge to do right by everyone.”

 Why is the Hospital important to the OU and its students?

“The series provides viewers with behind the scenes access to a complex world that most of us have never worked in, providing the opportunity to learn more about what it is like to operate a hospital and make life and death decisions.

“The OU has many students studying Health and Social Care, and a large portfolio of courses to support those developing a career in the sector; we hope that our students connect with this programme and feel it represents something true to them.”


The first episode will be broadcast on BBC Two on Wednesday 11 January 2017, 21:00.

For related courses or if you want to explore which decisions you would make in the complex world of healthcare through an interactive quiz, visit our free online learning platform, OpenLearn


Commissioned for The Open University by Dr Caroline Ogilvie

Nominated Academics: Head of Nursing, Julie Messenger; Lecturer, Dr Rajvinder Samra

Media Fellow:  Janet Bardsley (Faculty of WELS)

Broadcast Project Manager: Caroline Green

Online Project Producer: Georgia Axtell-Powell

About Author

Christine works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University and focuses on stories from the Faculty of Social Science and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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