Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2012: Lives of Doctors

Doctors on television: analysis of doctors’ experiences during filming of a documentary in the workplace

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 19 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8220
  1. Shelby Webster, fellow in medical education1,
  2. Kevin Shotliff, director of multiprofessional education1,
  3. Urvashi Sharma, research associate23,
  4. Derek Bell, professor of acute medicine23
  1. 1Department of Postgraduate Medical Education, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London SW10 9NH, UK
  2. 2NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
  3. 3Imperial College London, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
  1. Correspondence to: S Webster shelbywebster{at}
  • Accepted 6 November 2012

Shelby Webster and colleagues explore the effects of working under the eye of the camera

Fly on the wall medical documentaries are increasingly popular in the UK. Our hospital was the base for the second series of Junior Doctors: Your Life in Their Hands, a BBC documentary series following the lives of National Health Service junior doctors (foundation trainees) at work and at home. The series has prompted strong opinions and concerns among clinicians, medical educators, and the wider public about issues in medical training and the impact of filming junior doctors at work on the profession and public perception.1 2 Indeed, the complexity of starting a new job, in a new hospital with new colleagues is challenging in itself without the added complication of film crews and subsequent public broadcast. We evaluate and explore doctors’ experiences during filming of the BBC series.


Ground rules

The interaction between the medical profession and the media is becoming increasingly complex. Guidance relating to how medical professionals interact with different forms of media is increasingly available as traditional boundaries blur and healthcare professionals become more accessible to patients and the public.3 4 The ethical and legal framework to support patient confidentiality during filming in a healthcare setting is now well established; however, the ethical considerations for clinician involvement in reality based documentaries is less well described.5 6 7 8

During filming of Junior Doctors, the hospital followed robust procedures to assure legal and ethical consent processes for patients and staff. A steering group was established, and roadshows, grand rounds, and poster campaigns were used to highlight the filming. Recruitment of foundation doctors was voluntary, and information was provided to them by production staff and previous contributors. The BBC offered all featured doctors the support of an independent psychologist.

We …

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