THE BLOG

The BBC Drama Department Is A Terrible Place To Die

10/06/2015 15:40 BST | Updated 10/06/2016 10:59 BST

Apologies for taking this down a Points of View route but someone on Twitter pointed out something that shocked me in this week's episode of BBC One's Casualty, broadcast Saturday 6 June, 2015.

An older woman called Julia, suffering from cancer, was admitted to hospital in great pain and discomfort after a car accident. Julia, who had terminal lung cancer wished to travel to Finland to take part in a potentially life-saving clinical trial. It's soon discovered that the trial is not going to be helpful but what she really wants is to take one last holiday with her sons - fine so far.

What is shocking is that one of the registrars seems to think that Julia's options were to "spend her last days with her boys abroad" or be "stuck in some dingy hospice".

It struck me that hospice care in the BBC Drama Department must be pretty bleak. Just two months ago a character on EastEnders, Stan Carter, was dying and other characters raised objections about his being transferred to a "grotty hospice".

Walford and Holby aside, I have visited hospices across the UK and I am yet to see one that would be described anything like "dingy" or "grotty". People regularly leave hospices astounded at the wonderful places they have just seen and people whose loved ones have been cared for in hospices - or at home supported by hospice staff - tend to agree. There has been a great series of articles on the Cornwall Hospice Care website called #HospiceStories that blows this "dingy" suggestion out of the water. If you have the time please read Matt and Becca's story.

The statistics also challenge the suggestion of hospices being anything other than full of compassion and dignity. The National Survey of Bereaved People (VOICES) in 2013 found hospice care was rated the highest quality care by those who had lost a loved one. Hospice staff lead the way in making sure that people are cared for with utmost dignity and respect - 84% said patients were "always" shown dignity and respect by hospice doctors and 82% by hospice nurses.

What I want to get across here is that even if you live in Walford or Holby, your local hospice is likely to be an amazing place with dedicated staff and volunteers. If you don't know anything about your local hospice please take five minutes to visit their website - if you don't know which hospice that is there's a useful search tool on the Hospice UK website. Please don't let naïve remarks stop you or a loved one knowing that the hospice movement in the UK is one of the best in the world and is delivering excellent care and support to patients, and their families, 365 days a year.

As far as the physical settings go, they are of course varied but the modern hospice is far from "dingy". Just this year, The Mary Stevens Hospice expansion picked up a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) regional architectural award in April 2015, the previous year St Benedict's Hospice was shortlisted, and in 2013 the North London Hospice was awarded a national RIBA gong.

I'm privileged to hear stories everyday of how hospices are making a difference, but I think if you asked one of the 360,000 patients and family members that are supported by hospices every year, the 125,000 volunteers who donate their time to local hospices, or more than 600 hospice runners who fundraised at this year's London Marathon, you will get a similar response.