Saturday, 22 November 2008

Holby Shitty

Usually, I don’t watch hospital dramas on TV. Shows like Casualty and ER actually annoy me because of the ludicrous events and people they portray. It’s made even worse by the fact that these shows generally make doctors out to be almost universally arrogant, incompetent morons whereas nurses are level-headed, sorted people who always seem to know exactly what’s going on. The last time I actually watched one of these shows the whole way through, I was treated to the sight of a consultant cardio-thoracic surgeon clerking in a patient with vague chest pain in A&E! Apparently, the newer shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy are better, but to be honest, watching these things is a bit like a busman’s holiday for me and I’d much rather spend my precious free time doing just about anything else. The exception to this rule is Scrubs, which is consistently brilliant, but I’d hardly describe Scrubs as a “hospital drama.”

The reason hospital dramas have come to my attention again is the latest episode of Holby City which in which the plot has reached such a ridiculous low that people were actually talking about it in the theatre coffee room yesterday.

As far as I can make out the plot goes like this. The anaesthetist, who everyone hates, is acting like a total tosser in theatre. He then starts dicking around with the (charged) defibrillation pads for no reason whatsoever. This being TV, he manages to give himself an electric shock with them. Cut to scene where he’s now being given “life support” by one of the surgeons and an ODP. When I say “life support” I mean it in the vaguest possible way. He’s given random shocks and oxygen but there’s no cardiac arrest team, no CPR (as in - not one single chest compression!), no IV access, and no drugs given. Surgeon 1 turns to surgeon 2 (who I presume is the consultant), who is doing a great job of ignoring all this and is carrying on with the operation regardless, and says “it’s not working” (no shit, Sherlock!). Guess what the consultant’s response is? “Put out the cardiac arrest call?” “Get some more help?” “Do some basic life support?” Nope. He responds by declaring the anaesthetist dead! To top it all off, the monitor still shows ventricular fibrillation. Unbelievable.

The plot rumbles on. No one in theatres or on the ward mentions what’s just happened (like this is an every day event or a “risk of the job”) and we cut back to another scene featuring surgeon 1. Remember that one of this man’s colleagues has just died and surgeon 1 is partly responsible due to his overwhelming, unbelievable incompetence in an emergency situation. A St Johns Ambulance volunteer on their first day would be embarrassed by surgeon 1’s behaviour, never mind a supposed senior hospital doctor. Now a bereaved and grieving family will have to bury their son/dad/husband/brother. Is there any remorse shown by surgeon 1? Is there any guilt that his failure to act resulted in the death of a work colleague? Nope, of course not. He’s shown laughing about the whole thing in the bar with one of the nurses!

I thought that people were taking the piss when they described what happened on the show, but thanks to BBC iPlayer, I got to see the sorry saga for myself. If you want, you can catch it here, the episode is called “Cutting the Cord” and, if you understandably can’t bear to sit through the whole thing, the fun starts at about 41 to 42 minutes.

It begs the question, have the people who write the scripts for these shows even been to a real hospital or ever spoken to real NHS workers? Judging by what I’ve seen the answer is obviously not.


Dr Grumble said...

Dr Grumble has never watched a whole episode of this drama and he now thinks he never will. He fast forwarded to the ludicrous cardiac arrest. Surely this cannot be meant to be serious. Everything about it is wrong. Not just the medicine. It is utterly absurd as well as technically ludicrously unlikely. If the twit who shocked himself had put the paddles on his chest it might have been more plausible and it's obvious that they calmly record the time of death when he is still in VF. The only mistake was that they did not kill off the whole cast in the same way. If only they had wired the operating table to the mains while they were all holding hands. Yes. That would definitely have been better.

Unfortunately this episode is going to drive Dr Grumble further into oldfartdom. He may even have to write to the BBC again. Dr Grumble is not at all happy with what they are wasting his licence money on. This sort of crap could be churned out by a private company paid for by advertising. They might even do a better job.

Elaine said...

Glad I can't watch television any more as I can't hear very well.

I do miss HIGNFY and would love to have seen Scrubs.

But Holby? It is far worse than Casualty, and I haven't seen that either for years (thankfully)

Hospital Wallpaper said...

The last time I randomly caught an episode of this was when all the nurses went on a work to rule strike and a bunch of medical students descended on the wards (apparently to make up numbers). The students were portrayed as being very stupid and incompetent, even more so than the routine humiliation doled out to the doctors. The nurse of course had to step in to prevent the students from harming the patients in such a bizarrely basic way that i can't work out why the student would have even considered being so inept (it went against logic so much that it would actually take some thought to think of a way to deliberately be so bad). Suffice to say that is the last time I will be tuning in.

I agree with you about Scrubs.

House is good though, while some of the management plans are bizzare and the unprofessional behaviour would lead to a GMC hearing; There's some interesting medicine.

Claire said...

That's telly for you, that's telly drama/entertainment, or however it is listed in the Radio Times. I guess if the producers wanted to be true to life then they'd probably make a documentary show. I would imagine that they're being paid well to produce a fictious show that ticks all the boxes for a high ratings weekend hit TV show. That must leave the medical consultants that they use reeling but then there's alot of cash to be made in tellyland. I would suggest that only the incredibly stupid believe that hospital drama programmes are real life.

First On Call said...

Check out the "25 Things I Learned in Grey's Anatomy That I Didn't Learn in Medical School" group on Facebook for even more mind numbingly inaccurate nonsense from the Emmy winning US equivalent of Holby.

smudge said...

I confess I did actually watch this episode when it was broadcast and was open mouthed in amazement at this particular scene/storyline. It was so totally unbelievable. OK, so I used to work for the NHS but in a non-clinical role and even I could pick out the flaws in the 'treatment' let along figuring that it was a pretty unlikely accident to happen. Actually, it was one of the funniest things I've seen in ages if people didn't actually take it so seriously.

Can't quite work out if the writers are trying to make the point occaisionally "hey viewers, this is FICTION, real hospital don't work like this" when they come up with stuff like this. Sadly I fear it's just poor scriptwriting/fact checking.

Jo said...

I stopped watching Casualty a long time ago, after having been an avid fan for ages. Never watched an episode of Holby City - I'm glad that I never wasted my time! The only reason for watching Casualty was to spot my local areas (I'm a Brizzle girl), and now they've moved it to Cardiff, I don't even have that excuse...

La said...

I'm a Biomedical Scientist in Haematology (i.e. the lab tech!) and get really irritated with these kinds of shows, yet still feel an annoying urge to watch some of them. I accept that the storylines are going to be dramatised and OTT, and the staff will get ridiculously involved in the patients' private lives - but as you said Junior Doctor, it's the belittling of staff that really gets my goat.

I too recall the medical students in Holby - they were like Laurel and frickin Hardy. But it was the lab tech they had on that show made me see red. We already suffer from "dumbing down" by other colleagues within the NHS and few members of the public know we exist - let alone have an inkling of the 6 years of training it takes to do our job. So, initially I was quite pleased that the makers of this show had included my profession - until I saw it...The prat they were portraying as a Biomedical Scientist would wander aimlessly around the hospital for most of the episode (I only ever get to leave the lab at lunchtime!) and when he was shown in the lab he'd be eating his lunch there surrounded by bizarre pots and bottles, with a white coat slung over his shoulders for good measure, talking total, total twaddle and behaving in the most ridiculous (and unprofessional) manner imaginable.

And that's about the only publicity we'll ever get!!

savante said...

Well anaesthetists always get the lousiest roles on tv. Seen the drunk fella in the first season of Grey's Anatomy?

alhi said...

I LOVED that episode and that part in particular. It was absolutely hilarious as the guy was an absolute git, a cocky so and so and had already been shown up as a shit anesthatist on earlier episodes.
I took it as a light hearted piece of entertainment that wasn't to be taken too seriously, much like the situations in airplanes when a wire coat hanger is used to perform open heart surgery.