Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Friday, 25 June 2010 17:24 UK

ITV suspends Heartbeat

Joe McFadden and Rupert Ward-Lewis star in the show

Production of long-running ITV show Heartbeat is to be suspended to clear a stockpile of unbroadcast episodes.

It is understood that by the end of the year more than a series worth of shows will have been made and ITV wants to broadcast them before making new ones.

But the channel insisted the show was still an important part of its schedule amid reports it is to be axed.

The nostalgic drama set in North Yorkshire has been an ITV Sunday night staple since it first aired in 1992.

It is unclear how long the break in production will last.

An ITV spokesman said: "Heartbeat and The Royal (the show's spin-off medical drama) are an important part of the ITV schedule and are currently in production."

'Pleased with progress'

Earlier this week, five members of the show's cast and crew were taken to hospital after a tractor accident during filming.

Although four were later discharged, one guest actor was airlifted to hospital in Middlesbrough with chest injuries.

An ITV spokeswoman told the BBC News website that doctors treating the actor were "pleased with his progress" and that the Heartbeat production team were hopeful he would be released later on Wednesday.

She added that the guest actor, who has not been named for privacy reasons while recovering, was only appearing in the episode being filmed.

Heartbeat is based on the books of Peter Walker under the pen name Nicholas Rhea.

The drama, set in the late 1960s, is about the life of police constable Joe Mason, played by Joe McFadden, who patrols the streets of Aidensfield.

Tricia Penrose and former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson also star in the series, which returns to ITV1 later this year.

The series draws up to seven million viewers in its Sunday night slot.

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