The BBC’s take on NHS doctor Adam Kay’s memoir pulls no punches in portraying the difficulties of life as a junior medic – be it fatigue, bullying or falling asleep at the wheel

For good or ill, we’ve come a long way since ER. When it aired in 1994, it was the first mainstream global hit to depict the medical profession with any degree of realism. Though it still had George Clooney as the hospital paediatrician so, y’know, it wasn’t literal warts and all, that’s for sure. Over in the UK, launching in the same year, but with inevitably more local – though still heartfelt – acclaim we had Cardiac Arrest. That was all warts, sliced off by the writer and former NHS doctor Jed Mercurio and placed under a brutally unforgiving microscope. He followed that up 10 years later with Bodies, a full dissection of the people, players and power structures that simultaneously support and destroy what could be the best health system in the world, adapted from his own autobiographical novel of the same name.

This Is Going to Hurt (BBC One), looks a worthy challenger to the Mercurio throne, having been adapted by writer and former NHS doctor Adam Kay from his identically titled bestselling memoir. It follows junior doctor Adam – or, rather, at this remove I suppose “Adam”, played by Ben Whishaw – as he works his way through his “Brats and Twats” rotation (that’s the obstetrics and gynaecology ward for those of a non-medical background). This often means being literally elbow-deep in gore (during C-sections or, as we see in one of the opening scenes, keeping a prolapsed umbilical cord where umbilical cords are preferably kept until the baby is out). And it also means always dealing with too many patients at once, hoping for Tracey the good midwife (“I’d let her sew up my sister’s perineum”) and not the panicky one (“Non-reassuring Trace”), and ignoring the kind of profound fatigue that sees you fall asleep in your car for the night before you can drive it home.

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