Holby City co-creator on how he thinks the hospital drama should say goodbye

One of the co-creators of Holby City has said he hopes the series concludes with a “big, emotional story” and not a “soapy” ending.

The BBC announced the medical drama will finish next year after 23 years on screen, with the broadcaster saying it had to sometimes “make difficult decisions to make room for new opportunities”.

The news comes after the BBC announced earlier in the year that it would move some of its key departments and staff outside London to make the corporation more reflective of the UK as a whole.

British Soap Awards McVey
Esther McVey and BBC head of drama, Mal Young arrives at the British Soap awards 2000 at the BBC TV studios (John Stillwell/PA)

Mal Young, who created the series alongside Tony McHale, told BBC Breakfast: “I brought in a writer from Casualty, Tony McHale who had written, I mean, he was practically a doctor.

“When we wrote the first episode he was on standby to jump on the back of a bike to go and attend a heart operation, that’s how dedicated he was.

“I was pathetic, I didn’t go near a real hospital, I left it to people like that.

“So we started with a bang.

“And I hope that they don’t blow the place up or do anything soapy like that, or a big fire or a siege.

“I think the trick is to go out with a big, emotional story, have everyone in tears, but just pull back the camera and say, ‘Life goes on, the NHS goes on’, hopefully, and hospitals like Holby City will exist and they’re there for us and they’re there for the audience in their lives, and I just want to feel it’s carrying on somewhere.”

A spin-off of Casualty, the series created by McHale and Young debuted in 1999, following the lives of staff at the fictional Holby City Hospital, the same hospital as Casualty.

Young, whose other TV credits include ITV’s The Bill and Channel 5’s Family Affairs, said the series has always intended to reflect real-life events.

Last year a special coronavirus episode of the programme focussed on Holby City’s chief executive Max McGerry, played by Jo Martin, trying to run the hospital amid the pandemic.

Holby City
For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only Undated BBC handout photo of actor Lee Mead who has said he quit Casualty to see more of his daughter (Warren Orchard/BBC/PA)

Young said: “I left the show in the end of 2004 and it was just great to be able to see it reflecting what was going on now, that’s why we designed this show.

“It was supposed to keep up to date, it was supposed to say, ‘This is what it looks like in a hospital’.

“We tried to get it as close to reality as possible”.

Former Holby City and Casualty star Lee Mead, who played nurse Ben “Lofty” Chiltern, said he felt “very honoured to be part of a show that was running for so long”.

He added: “I was just saying it touched on real life issues as well and I think they always were on point in that sense, and making sure that it connected with people and that’s why it had such a loyal following as well for so long.

A number of big-name stars have appeared in the series over the years including Leslie Ash, Patsy Kensit, Jane Asher, Robert Powell, Adrian Edmondson, Alex Walkinshaw and Jemma Redgrave.

Before shooting to fame in Killing Eve, actress Jodie Comer had one of her first TV roles in series 12 of Holby City, playing patient Ellie Jenkins, while Oscar winner Olivia Colman featured in 2002 as Kim Prebble.

The BBC’s statement said: “We are incredibly proud of Holby City but it’s with great sadness that we are announcing that after 23 years, the show will end on screen in March of next year.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

“We sometimes have to make difficult decisions to make room for new opportunities and as part of the BBC’s commitment to make more programmes across the UK, we have taken the difficult decision to bring the show to a close in order to reshape the BBC’s drama slate to better reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing team at BBC Studios and all the cast and crew who have been involved in the show since 1999.

“Holby has been a stalwart with audiences, delighting millions of viewers each week and winning hundreds of awards with a compelling mix of cutting edge medical stories and explosive personal stories.

“We look forward to working with the team over the coming months to ensure that when it ends, Holby goes out on a high.”

The corporation announced previously it will launch two new soap-style drama series, one from the North of England and another from one of the nations, over the next three years.

Holby City is filmed in Elstree, Hertfordshire, just outside of London.