This week marks the 100th episode of 24 Hours in A&E at St George’s. The series wouldn’t be possible without the huge amount of support given by staff and patients who consent to filming and also to viewers who continue to watch it – we thank you all for your involvement and support.

To celebrate our 100th episode, Dr Will Glazebrook – Consultant in Emergency Medicine, has written about his experiences of working in a busy Emergency Department with a production company filming the longest running documentary series in the UK…

“Why do we keep doing it? Because it helps us put our best foot forward.”
By Dr Will Glazbrook, Consultant in Emergency Medicine

Unfortunately, this winter’s media coverage of Emergency Departments has been predictable; despite this, it is with some pride that, this week, St George’s Hospital quietly celebrates an important event.

St George’s is the home of the Channel 4 documentary series 24 Hours in A&E and today (Tuesday 16 January), the 100th episode from the Trust will be broadcast. The positive and honest spotlight it shines on the work of our hospital is one of the main reasons we have kept doing it for so long.

The series arrived here from King’s College Hospital in 2014 and we were proud to take on the baton from them. The highly polished programme people see at home is the end product of months of hard work from the Trust and the programme’s production company, the Garden Productions.

As well as being an on screen contributor to the programme, I am also part of the panel of staff who sit down to watch each episode before they are broadcast. We don’t have editorial control, and it wouldn’t be right if we did – but it’s important for us to fact-check what is going out, as we sometimes spot things that the production company don’t.

From the start we’ve worked with the Garden Productions on 24 Hours in A&E, and this relationship is the key to the success of the programme. We have a high level of trust and respect for each other and this facilitates an honest production and representation of our work.

We are indebted to every non-clinical team and support team, who help make this series possible. They often work out of hours and beyond their job descriptions, but not in a way they begrudge, because it remains, after all these years, a fantastic and exciting project to be part of.

So why do we continue to do it? There are many reasons, although first and foremost is the fantastic opportunity we get to celebrate and promote what we do, and put our best foot forward.

At a time when the NHS is under more pressure than ever, 24 Hours in A&E is a weekly reminder, were it needed, of the amazing work the NHS does all day every day (and night), not only at St George’s, but across the whole country. The 110 fixed cameras used to film the programme could be put up in any Emergency Department in the country and the same level of care and passion would be recorded.

Another of the great things about the programme is that, working in an Emergency Department, we rarely get to see what happens when patients leave either to go home or are admitted. At St George’s, we can see 500 patients per day and getting meaningful follow up information on this number is impractical and impossible. 24 Hours in A&E affords a peek into the work of the rest of the hospital, but more interestingly, the follow up of home and family is more rewarding to me.

People often ask me why would patients choose to take part. Why would a patient want their illness, injury etc be recorded for a TV programme? This is a question that I can’t answer with any certainty; but what I do know is that, for many patients and their families, taking part in the programme has helped them come to terms with what happened to them.

Recently on TV there has been an increasing number of frank documentaries about the NHS. I think the work, since 2011, that the Garden Productions has done and the quality of sympathetic and accurate programmes it has produced for 24 Hours in A&E has encouraged this ‘letting the cameras in’ to have occurred. This can only be a positive especially at this time of growing debate on the health service.

Will we do it forever? No idea! Will we reach 200 episodes? No idea! Whatever the future holds, it has been a privilege to take part in such a fantastic advertisement for the NHS, and in particular the teams I work with every day at St George’s Hospital.

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Pippa Harper, Media Manager at St George’s via philippa.harper@stgeorges.nhs.ukor 020 8266 6128.