If a sign of a well-made television programme is its ability to evoke emotions in its audience, then BBC2’s Hospital certainly hit the mark.
From joy to despair, frustration to elation, the documentary showcased the realities of life in a large NHS hospital in a way that we could all relate to.
Whether it was the story of parents waiting helplessly by their child’s bedside as doctors attempted to resuscitate them or the staff’s desperate attempts to find enough beds for the seemingly never-ending flow of seriously ill patients, this was television that made you feel something.
A brave, bold look at today’s NHS that did not shy away from the difficulties facing all in the health and social care system. All the more timely that this was made given it is the NHS 70th birthday this year.
The fact that it was set in Nottingham’s hospitals where so many of us, our friends and family members have received care of course made it resonate even more. Spotting a corridor you’ve walked down, a café you’ve waited anxiously in, or a ward you’ve visited makes it all feel so much closer to home.
But it’s not just Nottingham residents who have been captivated - the show has received great reviews nationally, #Hospital has been in the top 10 trending slots on Twitter virtually every week, and it’s prompted many column inches discussing the current state of our NHS.
And that’s why this type of programme is so important. By tackling difficult issues head on, it’s not only shown the grit and determination of the amazing staff in Nottingham’s hospitals, but it’s opened up discussions about some big topics that deserve to be in the national spotlight.
Having been a member of the communications team at Nottingham University Hospitals when the decision was made to film Hospital there, I know that this was not something taken lightly. There were many hurdles to overcome as, quite rightly, there were some very valid concerns about how the hospitals would be portrayed, how this could affect relationships with partner organisations, and whether having staff followed around by cameras during the busiest time of the year was appropriate.
What you didn’t see in the programme are the hours of preparation that went in to making sure everything ran as smoothly as possible, the communications team working around the clock to address any problems that cropped up during filming and to maximise the potential presented by having the national spotlight on their hospitals.
Taking the decision to let national TV cameras into your organisation is a brave one but the courage and conviction of the NUH communications team has paid dividends. It proved that you don’t always have to gloss over the difficult issues, that being open and transparent can be far more powerful in helping you convey your message.
Hospital showcased the very best of our city and gave us all reason to be proud. Well done to the comms team behind the scenes but most importantly all the staff and patients who agreed to share their stories.