Superhospital, TV review: A peep behind the curtains in the NHS reveals some sobering sights

The ITV programme takes in every aspect of the life at Royal Derby Hospital

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The Independent Culture

There are some saintly souls working in the NHS. But then, if you've seen 24 Hours in A&E, An Hour to Save Your Life, One Born Every Minute, or any of the other medical documentaries that came before ITV's new four-parter Superhospital, you'll already be well aware of that.

This one distinguishes itself by taking in every aspect of the working life at Royal Derby Hospital, where 150 different professions work in 105 different departments. Yet somehow the daily travails of car park manager Mel (a badly parked Ford Fiesta) or catering supervisor Paul (why are patients discarding the tomato in his cheese-and-tomato sandwiches?) were not as captivating as the life-and-death struggles of medical trauma.

On the cancer ward we met Zoie, who is undergoing a last-ditch round of chemotherapy after being diagnosed six years ago with ovarian cancer. Zoie's stoicism is astonishing as is nurse Caroline's ability to display only useful emotions. "I will not cry because I'm not helping them. The best way to be with a patient is supportive. We just do tender loving care and that's the best way."

Downstairs in A&E, consultant Dan is caring for Michael, a 20-year-old who's been unconscious and fitting for two hours. When a CT scan revealed no obvious signs of bleeding on the brain or infection, Dan seemed stumped. That is, until the family arrived and informed him that Michael's breakfast consisted of an entire bottle of very strong Polish vodka. Mystery solved.

If Michael doesn't learn moderation, he'll end up on the liver ward. That's where Jayne, a 40-year veteran of the NHS, takes care of her mostly alcoholic patients – we're told 10 per cent of all patients arrive at the hospital because of the effects of alcohol. The look on 51-year-old James's face when he described how his mother's death had precipitated his decline was pure despair: "I'm at a quandary at the moment; whether to give up or try again." Thankfully, Jayne's brisk matronly approach persuaded him to opt for the latter and it was touching to see how much pride she took in a role many would consider thankless. "I think he's very lonely and I think that's a problem with a lot of our patients."