1 9 5 7 – 1 9 6 7 (UK)
966 x 30 minute episodes
50 x 60 minute episodes
Emergency – Ward 10 was Britain’s first medical soap. It was also the nation’s first twice-weekly serial (shown every Tuesday and Friday) and started life as Calling Nurse Roberts, a six-week filler series by ATV staff writer, Tessa Diamond.
Set in the fictitious surroundings of Oxbridge General Hospital, the series was an instant hit with a million viewers tuning in to the first episode in February 1957.
Running for ten years – and reaching #2 in the ratings in 1960 and boasting 16 million viewers by 1962 – it made stars out of the actors and actresses who walked its wards, not least of all Jill Browne, who played pin-up nurse (later Sister) Carole Young.
The patients at Oxbridge were remarkably healthy and fortunate as no worrying or incurable illnesses were allowed.
Although the series was high in drama it also had a very low mortality rate (patient deaths were strictly limited to five per year – later reduced to two), concentrating more on the lives of the doctors and nurses who staffed the hospital.
These included Dr John Nolan and surgeon Alan Dawson (played by Australian Charles Tingwell). Dr John Rennie was played by Richard Thorp (who would later go on to star in another long-running soap, Emmerdale Farm, as despised estate manager Alan Turner) and 21-year old John Alderton joined the cast in 1963 as Dr Richard Moone (pictured above right).
Dr Moone had a busy time of it in 1963. First, there was pretty nurse Sally Bowen and a frowned-upon secret romance, a troop carrier overturned stretching Casualty to the limit, and the star of the ward, Sister Carol Young, was taken ill and admitted to her own ward.
The long list of patients who received treatment within EW-10‘s walls included Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney.
But the writers did tug heart-strings on occasion – When the wife and baby of Dr Anderson died in a flood, tearful viewers protested in droves.
The series also won praise in a British Medical Association report for allaying people’s fear of hospitals, and in 1962 Enoch Powell (then Minister of Health) congratulated the show on its 500th episode and commented on the useful job it did in reminding the public of the need for immunisation.
Emergency – Ward 10 had it’s detractors also – A Manchester St John Ambulance Brigade commissioner banned his cadets from watching the show, claiming it portrayed nurses as “feather-headed flibbertigibbets”.
The show courted controversy in 1964 with its portrayal of an interracial relationship between surgeon Louise Mahler (Joan Hooley) and Dr Giles Farmer (John White). A love scene between the two was cut because it was considered “a little too suggestive”.
There was a 1958 full-length feature film, Life in Emergency Ward 10, and a brief spin-off series called Call Oxbridge 2000.
But in 1967, with ratings beginning to fall, ATV Sir Lew Grade pulled the plug on the hospitals life support.
Grade later admitted it was “one of the two biggest mistakes of my life”, and in 1972 he tried to revive the series as General Hospital (not to be confused with the long-running US series of the same name).
Sister Carol Young
Dr Alan Dawson
Dr Don Nolan
Dr John Rennie
Dr Richard Moone
Dr Lester Large
Dr Chris Anderson
Nurse Pat Roberts
Dr Patrick O’Meara
Dr Simon Forrester
Dr Peter Harrison
Nurse Kate Ford
Staff Nurse Phillips
Nurse Sally Bowen
Nurse Jo Buckley