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Though not as popular as crime dramas, medical shows continue to draw viewers who crave their high-pressure and universally human storylines.
The last year has highlighted – more than ever – just how important medical workers are to society. From doctors and surgeons to nurses and CNAs and LPNs and paramedics and radiologists and everything in between, they look after people at their most vulnerable. In their honour, we wanted to make a post that highlights shows related to their work (no matter how ridiculous and unrealistic some of them – ahem, Green Wing – may be).
Thank you to all our readers who work in healthcare – and that includes the oft-forgotten heroes who work in the cafes and gift shops and car parks and reception desks and transport vehicles and custodial departments and administration (and I'm sure I'm missing plenty). You may not be directly delivering care, but I'm sure many can attest to the importance of your kindness when they're dealing with medical stress.
A List of 40+ of the Best British TV Medical Shows
To make this list a little easier to browse, we've divided it into 3 sections: Medical Dramas, Medical Comedies, and Reality/Non-Fiction.
British TV Medical Dramas (Including Period Dramas)
Call the Midwife
This notorious tearjerker is set in the 1950s and 60s and it follows the midwives and nuns of Nonnatus House in London's economically deprived East End. In a neighbourhood where many struggle to have clean water, adequate food, and safe housing, they help bring new life into the world with as few problems as possible.
The series was based on the memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth, and its incredible success means it has now gone far beyond the original source material. There are currently 10 seasons, the 11th is filming (as of May 2021), and it's already been renewed for Series 12 and 13. In the US, this one streams on Netflix.
The Good Karma Hospital
After her long-term relationship sours, a young British-Indian woman decides to move to India to work in what's advertised as a state-of-the-art hospital. When she arrives, she finds herself stuck working at a tiny, rural clinic. She may think she knows her field, but she'll soon find she's got a lot to learn. Amanda Redman stars alongside Amrita Acharia. Stream it HERE.
Eve Myles (Keeping Faith) stars as Frankie Maddox, a district nurse in Bristol who's more wrapped up in her work life than her personal life. It's a challenging job where no two days are exactly the same – but people who take it on are determined to make life just a little bit better for the people they look after.
This small-town drama follows the activity in and around a GP surgery in Cardale (a fictional town in the Derbyshire Peak District). Early episodes starred Kevin Whately (Lewis) as Dr. Jack Kerruish alongside Amanda Burton as Dr. Glover and Simon Shepherd as Dr. Preston, but the cast would eventually rotate quite a bit.
Fair warning to those thinking of watching – after 12 seasons, it ends on a cliffhanger. There's a lot of enjoyment before that point, but don't expect a satisfying wrap-up. You can stream it HERE
Jemma Redgrave stars as Eleanor Bramwell, a woman eager to prove herself as a doctor. Rather than joining her father's respectable private practice, she opts to work in London's deprived East End.
Based on A.J. Cronin's stories about the fictional medical hero Dr. Finlay, this series takes place in the 1940s after John Finlay returns from war service. Stories focus on things like the establishment of the new National Health Service and the modernisation of medical practice in rural Scotland.
The series is a follow-up to Dr. Finlay's Casebook, an older series that aired from 1962 to 1971.
Set in early 1960s London, this series follows a group of heroic hospital staff members who ensured women had access to safe abortions.
This period medical drama is set in the 1960s in the seaside town of Elsinby. It follows the lives of staff members at the fictional St. Aidan's Royal Free Hospital, and it's a spin-off of the period police drama Heartbeat. A number of characters cross over from Heartbeat.
Most stories include life-or-death emergencies, and many stories include some kind of moral/ethical component.
The Royal Today
This spin-off of a spin-off features the hospital from The Royal, but a modern-day timeline. It ran for one series of 50 episodes, and while it was a new cast of characters, one character was the fictional son of two characters from the original series.
This long-running medical soap has been going since 1986, with more than 1200 episodes to date. Set in the fictional Holby City Hospital, it follows the staff and patients in the hospitals A&E department (Accident and Emergency).
London Hospital / Casualty 1900s
Inspired by the British medical soap, Casualty, this series takes the viewer into a hospital in London's East End in the early 1900s. It's show like a modern medical drama, but in a period setting.
This medical soap has been running since 1999, with more than 1000 episodes to date. The series is a spin-off of Casualty, and it takes place in the same fictional hospital. While Casualty focuses on patients who've been brought in for urgent needs, Holby City focuses on everything else that happens in the hospital – surgery, recovery, etc.
Based on the Norwegian drama Valkyrien, Temple is a medical crime drama about Daniel Milton, a respected surgeon who runs an illegal medical clinic treating criminals and other desperate patients who can't or won't get help through more traditional NHS or private-run facilities. He's created the underground facility to help find a cure for his wife's terminal illness, and he's assisted by Lee, a Temple Station staff member and Anna, a medical researcher.
Mark Strong stars alongside Daniel Mays and Carice van Houten. In the UK, it's exclusively on Spectrum – but sadly, we've yet to see it available in the US.
Sue Johnston and Tom Baker starred in this medical drama about the lives and loves of doctors in a teaching hospital near Manchester, England. It ran for five years through the early 90s, so it's a bit dated – but it's a quality show and it can be fun to look back in time once in a while.
This medical anthology takes a look at what happens when medical professionals violate our trust. In the first series, nurse Cath Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) loses her job after whistle blowing, then steals a doctor's identity to make a new life in Edinburgh.
In the second series, a Syrian tour veteran is recovering from trauma in hospital when he realises an awful lot of patients are mysteriously dying around him.
James Nesbitt stars in this series about neurosurgeon Gabriel Monroe, a brilliant but unusual man. It follows him as he deals with challenging cases while also handling the breakup of his marriage and home life.
Originally created to fill the void left by the cancellation of Peak Practice, Sweet Medicine was also set in the Peak District. It was a slightly “hipper” feeling series, with Jason Merrells playing Dr. Nicholas Sweet and Gillian Kearney playing Dr. Deb Sweet. Miranda fans will recognise Patricia Hodge in the role of Georgian Sweet. It's full of sex and scenery, but the medical aspects of the show are pretty cringeworthy.
Sadly for fans, the series only lasted one season (ten episodes in total). It had reasonably good ratings when it first aired, but it wasn't enough to save the show from cancellation. There aren't any places to stream it legally at the moment, but hopefully someone will pick it up eventually.
This Leeds-based series follows a group of four young nurses who live, work, and play together. It seems them saving lives by day and letting off steam (often in wild and racy ways) by night. Shakespeare & Hathaway fans will recognise a young Jo Joyner playing Beth.
British TV Medical Comedies
Perhaps one of the most popular British medical shows, Doc Martin follows Dr. Martin Ellingham after he develops a fear of blood and transitions from being a surgeon in London to a GP in Cornwall. He's grumpy and awkward and doesn't quite fit into village life – but he's also very good at what he does.
The series is best categorised as a “dramedy”, as it's not a pure sitcom. You can stream it HERE.
This quirky medical comedy takes place at a hospital where nobody actually seems to practice medicine. It's in the same category as shows like Black Books, The Mighty Boosh, and The Young Ones. It's zany and sort of all over the place, but hysterical.
British comedy favourites like Olivia Colman, Sarah Alexander, Mark Heap, Sally Phillips, and Stephen Mangan star.
Elder care is one of the least glamorous areas of medical care, and the people who take it on are some of the best among us (my parents both worked in nursing homes for many years, so I can say that with 100% certainty). This series doesn't dwell on that, though. Getting On offers a funny, unconventional take on what it's like to work in a geriatric unit in an NHS hospital.
Interestingly, it was created by its three stars – Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine, and Joanna Scanlan. It was later adapted into an American series, but it's a case where the American version doesn't even come close.
Only When I Laugh
This late-70s/early-80s British sitcom follows a group of men in hospital as they get into all manner of trouble during their prolonged stays. James Bolam (New Tricks), Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born), and Christopher Strauli (Full House) star. Stream it HERE
Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) stars in this sitcom about the stars of a daytime medical soap. It follows the drama in both their working lives and their personal lives, with Lumley playing the role of unpopular prima donna.
This quirky period comedy follows a group of four Victorian era doctors with issues ranging from hygiene to alcoholism to paranoia. The stories mix in a bit of real history, but it can be a bit too “zany” for some.
This Leeds-based dramedy follows the live of several young paramedics. It's not going to end up on many “best comedies of all time” lists, but it's a must-watch for Richard Madden fans.
The Delivery Man
Darren Boyd stars as Matthew Bunting, a former police constable who's decided to start a new career as a midwife. Familiar faces Aisling Bea and Fay Ripley also star in the series.
Real-Life British TV Medical Shows
This popular documentary series highlights the drama of one of the most ordinary things people do – giving birth. Focusing on the human stories behind each situation, you'll see both the highs and lows of what happens in a maternity hospital.
This series follows up with families from One Born Every Minute, seeing how life is going for them after the birth of their children.
This series follows paramedics as they deal with some of the wildest emergencies the UK has to offer – stag parties gone wrong, births in nightclub basements, and so, so many drunks.
This two-part series takes a look at the opening of the New South Glasgow Hospital, the largest medical campus in Western Europe.
Britain’s toughest medics are ready to go when the worst disasters strike.
This three-part series takes a look at families involved with the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service, the NHS's gender identity clinic for children with gender dysphoria.
Helicopter Search & Rescue – Ireland
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of Ireland’s key rescue agencies, you’ll want to check out this series that takes a peek at the work being done by the Irish Coast Guard, Cork Fire Brigade, the RNLI, the Irish Naval Services, and mountain rescue teams.
This series goes behind the scenes with a West Midlands ambulance crew.
The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital opens its doors to let viewers see the challenging work they do.
This graphic series follows top paramedics as they deal with major emergencies around the world – including an episode in London.
This series follows the doctors and paramedics of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
This British reality series takes a look at growing families in a variety of different situations.
Take a look at what goes on behind the scenes when you dial 999 (the British equivalent of 911).
When terrain and road access make it hard for regular ambulances to reach an area quickly, air ambulance teams step in.
This series follows the London Ambulance Service as they struggle to prioritize resources for those who need them most.
This docu-series gives us a fly-on-the-wall look at the work of district nurses throughout the UK.
What's Your Favourite British Doctor or Medical Show?
Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments!
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