Last Night’s TV – Great Ormond Street: Pushing the Boundaries

Unless you live on Mars, you’re no doubt aware that Great Ormond Street hospital is a world leader when it comes to paediatric medicine, and filmed over the course of a year, this intensely moving documentary was given unprecedented access to the real life stories that make up the day to day life of the hospital.

And it was, in the main, desperately sad. But what it did achieve was to give me a renewed sense of faith in our health care system, which, at this time of ever increasing spending cuts and horror stories of failures within the NHS, was timely.

Following four children and their families, the film focused on the paediatric cardiac care unit, where literally broken hearts can be mended, sometimes. Sometimes, they cannot.

It was in many ways, a tale of hope, but hope is both a blessing and a curse and for two of these children – Blessing and Bryan – the hope of a future facilitated by the marvelous work of Great Ormond Street’s surgeons was sadly to be dashed.

They passed away, but as horribly sad as it is when a child dies, it may perhaps be some tiny shred of comfort to those around the children that everything that could possibly be done was done.

For Natalie – whose parents came from Denmark to Great Ormond Street after surgeons in their home country refused to operate on Natalie – her multiple aneurysms required a surgical procedure that had never before been carried out on a child so young.

Natalie’s outcome was a mixed one; she survived the surgery but was temporarily blinded and had what may or may not be long term kidney damage. In effect, she’d swapped one life threatening condition for another, but again, she would almost certainly have died from her aneurysms had it not been for Great Ormond Street’s interventions.

The story with the happiest ending was that of Aicha who, at just 8 months old, looked destined to die within weeks. However, after successful surgery, her prognosis was vastly improved, though of course, no guarantees as to whether her illness may recur could be given.

So while this film was undeniably upsetting, I think it’s a valuable one in that we hear about – as I mentioned earlier – so many failings and cold, calculated facts and figures, to see the humanitarian and often intensely hard work done by this jewel in our health service’s crown is a timely reminder that for health care, we are justifiably the envy of the world.

If you missed it, you can watch it here, on BBC iPlayer.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.