Page last updated at 07:20 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Real-life sagas in hospital show

University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff
The University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff is the biggest hospital in Wales

A new BBC series has gone behind the scenes at one of the biggest hospitals in the UK to tell the real-life sagas of the people who work there.

From porters to surgeons, cooks to nurses and waste disposal workers to doctors, Hospital 24/7 follows the professional dramas at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff, for a week in the autumn of 2008.

As well as the everyday dramas staff face, the series documents some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS.

Series producer Samantha Rosie said they wanted to show the working life of staff at the hospital both on wards and behind the scenes.

"Many of the non-clinical staff go unseen, so it was important for us to film with both the cleaners and porters as well as the doctors and nurses to give a full picture of life at the hospital," she said.

Meet the real-life characters in the hospital:


Dr Matt Morgan compares working in the accident and emergency unit at the UHW to firefighting and says that his main aim is to "keep everyone alive".

"You've got to look after the ones who may or may not die during your admission, really," he says.

"People who have got a twisted ankle or have got punched in the face - they need to be seen, however they're not going to die in the next 20 minutes or hour.

The University Hospital of Wales has 997 beds which are occupied full time
The accident and emergency unit is the third largest in the UK
On average 750 patients are treated over the weekend at A&E
It costs 10m a year to keep the casualty unit running
The hospital has the same population as Caernarfon
Nearly 80,000 per week is spent on keeping the hospital clean, 4,000 of this is spent on cleaning stock
Non clinical staff make up a third of the workforce
Catering staff must feed more than 1,000 patients a day
Source: Hospital 24/7

"It's not an ideal situation, we would like to see everyone in an hour, it would be great, but until things radically change in the number of people that present to you with their drunk injuries or the number of staff we have, it's just going to be like that on a Friday night.

"A lot of our work load is created by alcohol. Either they are too drunk, they've been assaulted by someone who's drunk, they've tripped over while they were drunk. That's a huge work load we've got to pick up."

Dr Morgan said doctors and nurses were always under pressure in the A&E unit because of a lack of staff and a lack of beds, but they just tried to get on with it and have "a bit of a laugh and a joke" to take the stress out of work.


Neil Meredith is one of the 15 bin men who keep the hospital free from rubbish.

It is his job to ensure the mountains of waste in the hospital get moved underground. Everything from placentas to waste paper rubbish to faecal waste is dealt with by him.

However, Mr Meredith believes that some areas of the hospital can be too wasteful as he shows cameras scrapped chairs which have been deemed unsuitable.

"Personally it annoys me because that's utter waste," he says.

"If I had it at home I'd repair it because I couldn't afford to get rid of anything like that.

"It's a shame they can't have them reupholstered and put back on the ward. Save some money and give me a pay rise!"


Richard Harwood is one of the hospital's 200 housekeepers and he ensures that the main public areas of the hospital are clean.

As Hospital 24/7 shows, he is often tasked with cleaning up after patients.

The jewellery shop in the hospital concourse is forced to close for health and safety reasons because a patient leaves a trail of blood on the carpet.

Mr Harwood and his colleagues come to the rescue so the shop can re-open.

Hospital housekeeper Richard Harwood shows the cameras how messy the ladies toilets can get.

"It's all part of the service," he says.

"This is the sort of thing we have to deal with but there's no point in complaining.

"I do like this environment. I think that's why I get a lot of satisfaction out of working down here because I do like the people round me.

"When I first took it over two years ago it used to get absolutely filthy. Some days it does now but nine times out of 10 it's a lot better than what it used to be years ago, because they know who I am!"

He says he is "addicted" to cleaning because he has been doing chores from the age of 10.


Working with children is something Simon Huddart was destined to do.

"I first wanted to become a paediatric surgeon when I opened a door to the clinic and a young boy bunny-hopped in," he says.

"I'd never met him before but he just bounced in like a rabbit and his mum said: "I do apologise but he's being a rabbit today." I thought well that's not a bad set of patients to have.

Simon Huddart
Simon Huddart operates on a three year old cancer patient in Hospital 24/7

"They have an inherent energy that makes them not want to be ill."

Mr Huddart is seen operating on three-year-old Ashleigh Flowers, who has a tumour the size of a small football on her kidney. Without surgery her life would be in the balance.

The operation is successful but with both her kidneys removed as well as the tumour, she faces a future of dialysis.

"It's a lot to get through, it's a lot of drugs, a lot of trips to hospital, a lot of heartache, a lot of pain for the child, it's very stressful, very very upsetting," says Mr Huddart.

Ashleigh must now have chemotherapy and remain cancer-free for three years before going onto the kidney transplant list.


Assistant head chef Francine Jeremy has 30 years experience and is one of 32 staff who help to cook all of the food served on the wards.

"We do roughly about 2.5m-3m meals a year because we supply all the hospitals in this area now and also HM Parc prison. It's more a factory than it is a kitchen now, " she says.

"I think we get 3 a day to feed a patient and that's for three meals a day including beverages.

The hospital's assistant head chef Francine Jeremy shows how useful a paddle can be in her kitchen.

"It is a lot of food. It gets so you don't want to eat when you get home, or you certainly don't want to do the cooking anyway."

But Mrs Jeremy realises how important her work is in helping to get patients well again.

"You can give them any medication imaginable but if they're not eating they can't go home."


Carly Edwards gets medically well patients off beds and sent home so that the hospital's beds are freed up for new admissions.

But some patients cannot be discharged until a home can be found for them in the community.

There is always a shortage of beds and Ms Edwards, who regularly clocks up 5km a day walking round the wards, reckons she is not one of the most popular people in the hospital.

"I don't think we are the most liked people in the trust really to be completely honest," she says.

"I think the emergency areas and the assessment areas maybe feel we don't do as much as we could. I think the wards feel we bring them work.

"When I first started I took it to heart really but as you get on with it, I've got broad shoulders so I can take most things."

Hospital 24/7 is on BBC One Wales at 2235 GMT from Monday, 12 January to Thursday, 15 January, except Wednesday, when it is on at 2245 GMT.

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