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Holby City and the case of ‘dramatic licence’ leading to ‘minor deviation of accuracy’

Now although I might get a little indignant about the misconceptions of occupational therapy I can generally manage the ‘basket weaving’ and ‘fluffy bunny’ comments. What I’m not so fond of is cases where TV shows (especially medical ones) misrepresent our profession (hmm let’s think back to the OT who suddenly became a physio in Coronation Street – oh as well as having an affair with his client’s wife).

Now I don’t even watch Holby City but even I had to watch a recent episode when I saw the comments from OTs on social media. The episode shown on the 21st May had us all a little riled and a couple of us decided to complain.

Here is my comment to them:

The scene regarding the assessment of the lady Betty for Dementia was inaccurate in a number of ways.
Firstly the doctor said they would call Occupational health for a dementia screen (this should have been occupational therapy and was corrected to the later in the programme adding to confusion).
The suggestion was that all that can be done after screening is to arrange home help when there are a variety of interventions and strategies that can be employed. What a bleak, unhelpful view. Yes dementia is a cruel disease but there are ways to help people live with it.
The OT was in mid assessment and clearly hadn’t been, or properly introduced himself.
Not in right colour uniform – generally OTs wear bottle green trousers (this looked like a physiotherapy uniform).
He was sat a mile away from client on the chair – poor practice.
No privacy. You’d never do an MMSE with everyone watching on an open ward like that. It wouldn’t help get accurate results and would distress the client (as it did).

Well done for trying to demonstrate staff other than doctors and nurses but please encourage them to be accurate when doing so. Many occupational therapists I know expressed dismay with this scene and the mis-representation of our profession.

And here is their, in-my-view’ cop out response – do you think they addressed the issues I raised? Is this a case of a minor deviation from their “thorough” research for dramatic licence?

Thanks for your contact regarding ‘Holby City’ on 21 may.

I understand you had concerns with regards to the portrayal of occupational therapy which you felt misrepresented the profession.

Whilst we thoroughly research all our scripts and storylines, a certain amount of dramatic licence is occasionally used in order to keep the story moving forward. We appreciate that even the most minor deviation from accuracy can be irritating to some viewers, however with the number of characters in the show, and the amount of storylines running concurrently, we cannot always include the level of detail that some viewers would like us to.

I can assure you we appreciate your feedback and your complaint has been registered on our audience log. This log is made available to all members of the BBC, including the production team of ‘Holby City’ and senior BBC management. This ensures your comments and others we receive are considered across the BBC. Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

To me thorough research would have been at a minimum:

  • The OT wearing the correct uniform
  • To have been called by the correct name or at least have a comment made about why occupational health was used, e.g. ‘why can’t they ever get our name right?’ (sadly this isn’t exactly inaccurate but I’m not entirely convinced that Holby City would have used that level of irony!)

I can almost forgive the rest, after all it’s not like many of the characters appear to behave particularly professionally.

Did you complain? Did your letter say the same?

So, I’m after your advice guys, what do we do now? Just leave it or…?

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