The Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Powell, M.B.E., M.P., Minister of Health.
❝ON the occasion of the 500th episode in the series Emergency—Ward 10, I should like to send my congratulations to all concerned with this production. Combining, as it does, good entertainment with a wealth of information and technical detail, it has impressed millions of viewers with the fine work done by the doctors and nurses and all others who make up the hospital team.
The programme has also given valuable support to health education and preventive medicine by stressing, for instance, the importance of immunisation against infectious disease, by reminding parents of the dreadful penalty on failure to take simple precautions against burns and scalds, or by emphasising the indispensable voluntary service rendered by blood donors and by those trained in first aid. In short, the programme has made a real contribution to saving life and preventing disease.❞
THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION’S SPECIAL COMMITTEE REPORT
“IT is noteworthy that Associated Television’s “Emergency—Ward 10”, which exemplifies the fictional approach to medicine and doctors, is one of the most popular television serials, and is watched regularly by an enormous audience. This programme has helped to relieve many members of the public of anxiety and fear about hospital treatment. The series also helps to make them familiar with the work of hospital doctors, and it presents them as likeable human beings. At the same time these things are done in a way which appears to provide compulsive viewing for television audiences.
Those responsible for “Emergency—Ward 10” deserve thanks for the work they do in drawing the attention of their audience to such important matters as the need for radiographers, the danger of unguarded fires, and the urgent need for careful driving. Warnings about matters of this kind are introduced incidentally and with skill during the course of an episode, and this is an extremely effective way of conveying information in accordance with the accepted principles of preventive medicine.”
(“Medicine on Radio and Television”. Memorandum of Evidence submitted by a special Committee of the Council of the British Medical Association to the Committee on Broadcasting under the chairmanship of Sir Harry Pilkington, 1961.)
Oxbridge Since 1957
On Tuesdays and Fridays since February 1957, the staff and patients of the Oxbridge Hospital have been presented to viewers of Emergency—Ward 10. Few television programmes have been so universally popular Just as hospital life cuts across social and economic barriers, the programme’s audience is drawn from all sections of the population.
From the start, Emergency—Ward 10 became one of the Top Ten most popular programmes and has firmly retained its place ever since. The audience has grown steadily over the years and each episode is now seen by up to 16½ million viewers, one in three of the total population of this country.
Now, on 25th May 1962, Emergency—Ward 10 reaches its 500th episode. This booklet marks the occasion and provides a record of a few of the factors which have contributed to the unprecedented success which the series enjoys.
The idea came from Tessa Diamond (shown below left), then an ATV continuity-writer, who has written many of the scripts. The programme currently has three scriptwriters — Diana Morgan, Rachel Grieve, and Robert Holmes. Producers have been Antony Kearey (from February 1957 until July 1959), Rex Firkin (until October 1960), Hugh Rennie (until May 1961), and John Cooper since May 1961. A number of ATV directors have worked on the programme at various times.
The process of producing an episode of Emergency—Ward 10 starts at the weekly script conference, attended by all the scriptwriters, the producer and his assistant, and a medical adviser. (The picture below right shows a medical adviser, scriptwriter Diana Morgan, production assistant Carol Williams, producer John Cooper, and scriptwriter Rachel Grieve.) All contribute ideas for the episodes which will reach production in about six weeks’ time, and as a result of the interaction of the existing plots, the medical and personal circumstances of staff and patients, the availability of actors and so on, the new story lines are agreed.
The scriptwriters take it in turns to write an episode, where necessary checking with the resident medical adviser or other consultants. Within a week of the script conference the producer and the medical adviser receive first draft scripts for the two episodes. The medical adviser notes any corrections which may be necessary for medical accuracy and suitability, and the producer incorporates these with any revisions he may consider desirable. The revised script is then duplicated and, after the casting has been agreed with ATV’s Casting Department, copies are given to the designer and the director who will be responsible for the particular episodes.
Currently the directors working on Emergency—Ward 10 under producer John Cooper are Vivian Matalon, Geoffrey Stephenson and Dinah Thetford.
Three weeks before production the director and the designer meet to plan out the set. (The picture shows the designer Lewis Logan, his assistant, and director Geoffrey Stephenson.) They break down the script into sets and talk over how the production is to be laid out in the studio, allowing the maximum room for cameras and sound booms. A rough plan is prepared and after further discussions a detailed plan is drawn up incorporating the designer’s and director’s requirements.
The production assistant meanwhile sends information to wardrobe and make-up and details of technical requirements to the relevant ATV departments. The director is at the same time preparing his camera script, choosing the background music and sound effects. The sound department may be asked to prepare special recordings such as an operating theatre or the working of an iron lung.
In the Studio Facilities building at ATV’s £4 million Elstree Studio Centre a multitude of activities begin. In the construction workshops any sets which are not available from the 4,500 pieces of stock scenery are built, and the entire set as it will ultimately appear in the studio is assembled and completed. Any props not available from the 7,000 in stock are hired, bought or made.
“My Society and indeed the whole accident prevention movement has been greatly impressed by the subtle references to the need for accident prevention in the home in Emergency—Ward 10”.
The rehearsal schedule is prepared and sent to the actors together with their scripts. This notifies them of their calls for rehearsal during the week in which the production is to take place. Many of the actors will have appeared regularly in Ward 10 over a long period. Among these are Charles Tingwell (Mr. Dawson), Jill Browne (Nurse Carole Young) and Desmond Carrington (Mr. Chris Anderson). Others will be among the hundreds of actors who have appeared in the programme for shorter periods.
There are no costumes during these days in the rehearsal rooms. There is no make-up. There are no cameras, no microphone booms, no arc lights. A few working props such as beds and chairs are used, but in the main the positions of the sets and props are marked by adhesive coloured tapes laid on the floor of the rehearsal room by the floor manager or his assistant. From these stark beginnings the skills of the director, actors and technicians will within a week have created another chapter in the history of the Oxbridge Hospital.
“I feel sure you will be interested to learn that as a result of the various scenes of Emergency—Ward 10 dealing with Blood Transfusion, the attendance at many of our blood collecting sessions has been much greater than we have experienced for some time and in view of the many comments made to us by many of our donors, I feel sure that this response is due, principally, to the excellent way in which the need for blood donors is conveyed in your programme.”
The day before production, the scene-shifters, prop men and other technicians are preparing one of ATV’s television studios at Elstree. Gradually the Oxbridge Hospital and its surroundings are created on the studio floor to provide the settings against which another presentation of Emergency—Ward 10 will be enacted.
Early on the day of production the setting-up of the studio, started the previous day, is completed. At 11 a.m. the director takes the actors through their first studio rehearsal — the walk-through — during which they accustom themselves to the sets and props. Cameramen, sound-boom operators and lighting engineers observe the course of the action and check the details of what they will later be called upon to provide.
Attention to Detail
During the day the studios bustle with activity. Wardrobe, make-up, technical adjustments and tests — a thousand and one details must be attended to. And in Emergency—Ward 10 authenticity is of the greatest importance, as for example below left where the woman doctor advising on the medical aspects of this episode demonstrates the correct method in the examination of a patient.
“The position which Emergency—Ward 10 occupies in the public’s mind cannot be judged from statistics alone. Its acceptance by viewers, the Church and the medical profession is the keynote of the series.”
At mid-day the camera rehearsals begin. The lighting and sound engineers and the cameramen have been completing their preparations and now the actors rehearse with the full production facilities. The director is now in his production suite and from here, with the aid of microphone links, controls all the studio activities. At his side are the production assistant (who cues the cameras and sound, notes any alteration or problems and looks after timing) and the vision-mixer (who in accordance with the shooting script and the director’s instructions selects pictures from the four cameras). The producer’s view is shown in the right-hand picture below.
Rehearsals continue during the afternoon, after the tea break with the actors in full uniform and make-up. As necessary the director comes down on to the studio floor between rehearsals to give notes to the actors on particular points which require attention.
“I am writing to express appreciation of the way in which, on several occasions, most valuable witness has been borne in your programme to the need for a spiritual view of life.”
“They get the background information and all the details as right as can be. And it is information that people want to know”