Charlie continues to lead the way at Holby
To work in Britain's most famous hospital emergency department you need to be nurse, psychologist, social worker and counsellor all rolled into one. That's because, down at Holby City A&E, folk arenít just hatched, patched and dispatched. Broken hearts are just as likely to get mended as ruptured ones and lifelines are offered just as readily to a down and-out as an emergency crash patient. All this above-the-call-of-duty caring is what makes Casualty (Saturday, BBC1, 8.50pm) such a success. And after 29 years on our screens, Britain's longest- running medical drama isn't even limping. There's no crutch required; Casualty is in rude health. The drama was invented, at the BBC's request, to highlight the plight of the over-stretched, underpaid struggles that dogged the NHS back in the mid-1980s; Casualty has always been about people and their ability to rise above extreme adversity. The staff, faced with job cuts and financial restraints, constantly manage to get the job done to the absolute best of their ability. They save lives, listen to their patients' problems and try to bandage all the physical and emotional hurt they come into contact with each day. Without a doubt, Casualty became the best advert the NHS could ever have wished for. Over the years, the team has seen everything from a primary school inferno to the bloody aftermath of a shopping centre bomb blast, and various other high-drama special episodes that Casualty's watching millions wouldnít miss in a month of Saturdays. Even when the drama is not at its height, though, the quality of the acting never lets up. The cast, which has changed and evolved over the years just like a real hospital staff would, is also strengthened now and again by special guests. Famous faces appear on Holby's trolleys as regularly as bedpans on a geriatrics ward. Renowned actors and actresses look on a guest appearance in Casualty as a prestigious event, and will happily throw their talents into even the most minor character role. There is one man who remains ever-present – Derek Thompson, alias Charlie Fairhead. He took a six-month sabbatical from the show in 2004, but apart from that has always been on hand to mop furrowed brows and lend a shoulder to cry on.
Hospital drama: Starring Derek Thompson and Charles Dale.