Alongside One Born Every Minute and the Educating series; 24 Hours in A&E has been an integral part of Channel 4’s observational documentary output. Over the last three years, we’ve seen hundreds of patients being treated by the staff of King’s College Hospital as we heard a number of inspirational stories of love and loss. Whilst I always thought that 24 Hours in A&E was one of the best factual programmes on TV I felt that the series became slightly watered down as the production team failed to find compelling enough stories to lead the episodes. So I wasn’t surprised when it was announced that the seventh series of the documentary would be moving to St. George’s in Tooting; as a new hospital allows to get to know a whole new lot of staff members and learn their stories.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the way in which the documentary focuses in on how the staff in A&E has to deal with emergencies in an incredibly efficient manner. This series kicks off with an incredibly serious case as we hear that a young woman is about to be brought into the hospital via helicopter after having crashed off of her scooter. The most shocking thing about the incident is that 29-year-old dental nurse Kerry’s right leg had completely come off and now the doctors face a race against time in order to stabilise her. As is always the way with 24 Hours in A&E, we hear from the relatives of the patients as they wait patiently for news of their loved ones. In the case of Kerry, it’s her grandparents Dennis and Angie who always hated her going out on her motorbike in the first place. Dennis’ words are particularly poignant as he talks about Kerry coming to work with him and how he’s always been surrounded by the female members of his family. Meanwhile, we hear from level-headed consultant Jai who always worries about his own daughters when he treats a woman of Kerry’s age. I was personally very invested in Kerry’s story so was upset when the second half of the episode decided to focus on other patients. Whilst this was presumably due to the fact that large parts of her operation couldn’t air on TV, I would’ve preferred a few more updates throughout the show.
Coming into St George’s midway through the episode was 11-year-old Luke who had been rushed to hospital after suffering a seizure whilst in the care of his nanny. As we later learnt from his American parents, Luke had a severe form of epilepsy which meant that he could have up to three fits a week. Although we did see Luke being cared for by the hospital’s paediatric team, I felt that his story was more about his parent’s feelings about his illness. We learnt that Luke started to suffer from seizures around the age of two-and-a-half and after this he started to lose the ability to speak. His mother Catherine spoke quite candidly about how she’d just like to have a normal conversation with her son but at the same time realises how special their relationship is. Meanwhile, his father Jack admits to feeling jealous of parents whose children are perfectly healthy even though he cherishes his relationship with his son. I did think that Luke’s story was included here as it fitted in nicely with the theme of parents and grandparents worrying about their charges no matter how old they are. The fears of Luke’s parents mirrored those of Kerry’s grandparents and therefore the producers of the show were able to fit in a recurring theme.
This theme extended to the life of Orthopaedic Registrar Mo who was this week’s featured staff member. He talked about how his mother was always pestering him to find a wife especially seeing as all of his siblings had already settled down and had children of their own. But it appeared as if this relationship between parents and children went both ways as Mo also discussed his father suffering a stroke on the same day that he received his results from medical school. Mo was presented as a likeable guy who had gone into a profession that his parents wanted him and also found it easy to deal with particularly troublesome patients. This was evident in the way he dealt with 19-year-old Bulgarian Tina; who had arrived in A&E after stepping on a knitting needle whilst barefoot. Tina was initially portrayed as quite an abrasive customer who didn’t take too kindly to her first assessment at the hands of Mario. It was only when Mo got to work on that she came out of her shell and we actually saw her smile as Tina was presented with the needle in question and, as we learnt, she has now decided to wear slippers around the house.
As with all 24 Hours in A&E episodes, this one ended with an update about the three patients we’d followed. Like everybody else, I was most anxious to hear of Kerry’s progress and was glad to learn that she survived her various operations and had decided to carry on with her life regardless. It was inspirational to see Kerry compete in a 10k run, albeit in a wheelchair, and I found her to be the perfect example of somebody who wasn’t got to let life’s knocks get to her. The final speech her grandfather made was also a tear-jerking moment as he recounted the first time Kerry came eye-to-eye with him in the hospital. These emotional stories and speeches are where 24 Hours in A&E really thrives and it was great to see Kerry’s tale have somewhat of a happy ending.
If I was only a casual viewer of 24 Hours in A&E I might not have realised that Channel 4 had changed the hospital in which the programme is filmed. Most of the stories are similar to those that have gone before and the way that the documentary is produced hasn’t changed. But then again that’s not a bad thing and I was definitely invested in the majority of this first episode and especially during the scenes involving Kerry. Although I’m not sure if I’ll continue to watch 24 Hours in A&E on a weekly basis I’ll still dip in every now and then depending on how strong the central stories are.
What did you think to the new series of 24 Hours in A&E? Did the change of hospitals make a difference?
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