Hollyoaks to address Motor Neurone Disease with ground-breaking new storyline

The show’s head teacher Patrick Blake will reveal he is suffering from the degenerative disease to his secretary Theresa McQueen

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The Independent Culture

After Hollyoaks broke new ground by becoming the first British soap opera to see a major gay character diagnosed as HIV positive, the show is embarking on another hard-hitting storyline as one of its characters begins a battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

Patrick Blake, the controlling head teacher played by Jeremy Sheffield, will disclose to his secretary Theresa McQueen, played by Jorgie Porter, that he has been diagnosed with the incurable condition on Monday’s show.

The storyline is believed to be a first for a soap opera and the show’s writers have been working with the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MDNA) to develop the plot.


Following the awareness raised about the disease by Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge, the new storyline will portray Blake’s struggle to come to terms with his diagnosis.

Sheffield’s character was involved in the award-winning domestic violence storyline last year, the fall-out of which sees Blake struggling to hide his battle with the disease as he tries to gain custody of his baby daughter from his now estranged wife, Maxine Minniver, played by Nikki Sanderson.

Former Holby City star Sheffield, 49, said he hoped his character's illness would “captivate people's hearts and minds”.

Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking as the first signs of Motor Neurone Disease begin to show in his body

He said: “Patrick recognises his symptoms of MND but he is in denial, having seen his father deteriorate and die of the same illness he is unable and unwilling to fully accept the truth.

”He endeavours to keep his diagnosis secret as admitting the truth could jeopardise his chance of getting full custody of his beloved baby daughter, Minnie.

“For Patrick the idea of not being in control, of relinquishing his power, is unthinkable and it will be interesting to see how the man who needs to control everything and everyone in his life copes with something that he cannot influence.”

The actor's character has already been displaying signs of the disease in the lead-up to today’s big reveal.

According to the MNDA, the incurable disorder kills five people per day in the UK.

A rapidly progressing disease affecting the brain and spinal cord, it targets the nerves that control movement, leaving people able to think and feel but “locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, and eventually, breathe”.

Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay who becomes HIV positive

Experts at the MNDA's care clinic in Oxford worked with the soap's writers and stars.

Sally Light, the charity's chief executive, said: “It's vital that we educate a young audience. Some of them will have done the Ice Bucket Challenge and now, through the drama unfolding week by week, will realise the devastating impact of MND and just why that was so important.

”I know of a family that sadly has experience of losing someone to MND and who has already recognised the subtle symptoms in Patrick as MND, which shows just how realistic Jeremy's portrayal is.

“Hollyoaks is well known for successfully tackling issue-led storylines and we have every faith that Patrick's battle against MND will be no exception.”

Additional reporting by PA