24 hours in A&E


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Authors: Phil Moss / Code: CC12, CC6, CC9, SLO7 / Published: 17/06/2015

24 hours in A&E…

When I was first approached by the production company the thought of opening up the department to the inevitable scrutiny both by the public and colleagues was quite daunting. 100 cameras watching our every move 24 hrs a day for 7 weeks takes a bit of getting your head around. Thoughts of “how will we come across as a department?”, “how will the patients react?”, “how the staff will feel about the process?” all sprang to mind.

After multiple meetings with the production company and following conversations with our friends at Kings, who’d featured in the initial episodes, I felt assured enough to say yes.

The 24hrs team arrived in early May and started the complex and fascinating set up of the rig – this involved lots of cabling being set in the ceiling void on our night shifts followed by the siting of over 100 cameras and similar numbers of microphones. Trepidation and excitement mounted. There were lots of gags amongst staff around where the blind spots in the department would be for the purposes of adjusting one’s appearance. Every member of ED staff was approached as to whether they were happy to be filmed and mic’ed up. The production team delved deep into the hospital to capture all our colleagues in other staff groups and specialities to reassure them and encourage the media friendly types to get on camera (no coercion was employed and the consenting process for both staff and patients was carefully explained).

The consenting process commenced with the Consultants identifying patients suitable to be approached by the production team (there was one producer in each area of the department 24hrs a day for 7 weeks). The shop floor producers would then speak with the patients to see if they would consent to be filmed. If they agreed they would be mic’ed up and the cameras would roll. Subsequently the patient would have 2 further opportunities to refuse for the footage to be aired and in most cases would see the footage first. Similarly all staff members were approached prior to filming starting to ascertain whether they were happy to be filmed in the background or to take a more “starring” role. Staff had the option to request they not be filmed or be “fuzzed out”.

I was pleasantly surprised how eager our patients and staff were to get on camera. On the first day of filming we actually ran out of radio mics for people to wear as people were so keen. As expected there were a few individuals who really took to the being on camera like ducks to water including Will, Daryl, James and Jai to name but a few. In reality after a couple of shifts on “set” most of us stopped noticing the cameras and microphones. The only disconcerting bit was the remote control of the cameras as they swivelled round making a whirring sound to get the best angle whilst you were conversing with a patient, but we soon got used to it.

The editing process has been lengthy with myself and 2 colleagues carefully viewing all the episodes and helping finesse the edits (on some occasions we have had the same episode edited twice before it goes out). It provided an opportunity to observe good practise and to feedback issues to various individuals and staff groups. The issues were minor without exception although we did have a process in place if something significant was captured on camera.

The viewing figures have been astounding with over 2 million watching each time. The tweets in particular have been overwhelmingly been positive focusing on the patient stories as well as praising the team. From a morale point of view the buzz around the department leading up to an episode and immediately afterwards has been huge, putting a smile on our faces for days afterwards. In essence this has been an extremely positive experience for us at St George’s ED and we hope the viewers continue to enjoy watching #tootingsfinest doing what we do best.

Dr Phil Moss

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