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Health, Sports & Psychology

Meet the OU experts behind 'Hospital'

Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017

The Open University's academics Julie Messenger and Dr Rajvinder Samra advised on our co-production 'Hospital'; here's what they think of the series...

hospital staff with a machine Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

Julie Messenger, academic consultant on the programme and Head of Nursing at The Open University, on what makes Hospital different from other programmes:

"Unlike other hospital programmes which often focus predominately on patient experiences, production teams for ‘Hospitals’ had open access to all areas and all staff working within Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and were able to showcase the impact of decision making as a result of increasing healthcare demands on staff and patient care interventions at all levels of the organisation. Over six episodes you will see staff working within highly stressed environments – often having to manage resource demands that don’t stretch sufficiently to accommodate all needs; you will meet patients – many with complex care needs who are faced with uncertainty about treatment; you will see staff frustrated by the constraints they are working within yet, you will see how committed they are to doing their best for patients and for their organisation. Hospitals is genuinely realistic. It is absolutely truthful account of NHS working today from both staff and patient perspectives. For me, it provided a lens to see and experience the complexity of meeting today’s healthcare practices."

Dr Rajvinder Samra, academic consultant on the programme and a Lecturer in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language studies, gives us a view of the OU's involvement in the series and what the audiences will gain from watching:

"As an academic consultant for the BBC, I got the unique opportunity to see how this production took shape. I got involved when the series had been commissioned but hadn’t been filmed yet. Of course, lots of work has already gone on to get the series to that point. But academic consultants get the opportunity to help steer some of the direction by uniting the academic side of things to what the BBC and the production company want or expect to cover in their programme. It allowed us at the OU to help ensure that the BBC series took into account some of the likely issues of today in healthcare. This means that we got the opportunity to highlight to the production team some of the topical and immediate issues that we know through research and  we all might see played out in the news media. Being an academic consultant also means that you have a duty to ensure that the story line is clear and logical and this may involve fact checking or asking for clarity at the first viewing of each episode of the series. But on the plus side, you are one of a select few to have seen the show at this point!  

This series raises incredibly timely themes. We see individuals making life and death decisions because the physical and economic constraints 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 and how this comes down to meticulous planning, organisation, good and bad luck, and ultimately what happens can be out of the control of many individuals no matter how skilled or senior they are. We see that prioritising in healthcare is heart-breaking to watch and this series gives us a small window into how difficult it is for staff who want to help everyone in the hospital. We see how this isn’t always possible and we see some brutal truths about what that looks like and how it makes individuals feel, staff and patients. We also get an opportunity to see the journey of patients and their families in what may be amongst the most difficult times of their lives. Themes of kindness, hard work and gratitude are littered throughout the series and that’s what is really amazing about it. 

By watching this programme, audiences will have more of a 360 degree view of how a hospital works. We may have all been patients and we may feel we understand how hospitals work, but this programme does an excellent job of showing us how one decision, such as getting or not getting a bed on a trauma ward, can affect so many in different ways and will set off a series of different reactions. This series effectively shows us some of the complexity in healthcare. Ultimately, this series shows us how difficult it really is to make these care decisions. As it says in the series, it’s hard to do right by everyone. 

This programme is important to The Open University and its students because it tells many real stories that describe and represent some of the very real challenges in healthcare that are faced by NHS (or hospital) staff and patients throughout the country. The Open University is about widening access and learning for all and this programme allows us in to a very busy, large and established NHS Trust in London which is akin to allowing us access into a world we haven’t really seen before  - so that we can learn more about what it’s like to make these incredibly difficult decisions. We have many OU students working in health and social care as well as a large portfolio of courses teaching health and social care; so we would hope that our OU students connect with this programme and feel it represents something true to them."

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