Review: This is Going to Hurt

We take a look at the BBC's new hit series, and how it reflects the state of our healthcare system today.

Michael Duckworth
9th March 2022
Image Credit: IMDb

Content Warning: mention of suicide

When they say this is going to hurt, they mean it. 

Ben Whishaw stars in the BBC’s latest hit hospital drama based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Adam Kay. Originally published in 2017, the book skyrocketed in popularity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The show translates to the small screen the diary entries of author Adam Kay written during his time as a junior doctor in the mid-noughties. Snapshots of Adam's home and work life create a darkly comic and deeply tragic tableau that speaks volumes about the chronically underfunded state of public health services in the UK. 

Whishaw plays a Fleabag-esque character with oodles of personality and plenty of witty, dry and darkly comic commentary on the situations and people around him. As Adam’s work life becomes increasingly all-consuming, his relationships with his family and his boyfriend (Tom Durant Pritchard) become more and more strained. Whishaw delivers a standout performance that is heartbreakingly believable, with excellent comedic timing, and a dry charm.

Cutting social commentary is paired with a tragic and exasperated look at life as an NHS doctor on the eternally busy labour ward.

Fresh on the ward is Shruti (Ambika Mod), another junior doctor still studying for her exams put under the watch of Adam who is made to train her up on the labour ward. The friendship between these two creates the heart of the series, initially fraught as Shruti struggles to get to grips with the high-pressure environment as Adam is simply too busy to grant her any patience. As she becomes more competent, she replaces Adam on the ward as he becomes wrapped up in a medico-legal case after an anonymous complaint is put against him from a fellow employee. Shruti's arc is masterfully portrayed by Ambika Mod, from the nervous, bumbling beginner to a cold and walled-off professional.

This is Going to Hurt doesn’t pull its punches when depicting life on the ward, from grisly surgeries, brutal decision making, impertinent patients to a looming, all-encompassing exhaustion all conveyed in excruciating detail. And while it is a soul crushing reality to immerse yourself in, the suspense and wry comedy that weave through the hard-to-watch moments make it difficult to tear your eyes away. The novel and TV show are both deeply needed insights into the abysmal state of the NHS after years of Tory austerity. With suicide rates for healthcare professionals continuing to be significantly higher than the national average it is vital that the truth of their experience is shared on a national scale, as painful as it is to confront.  

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