Bruce, SE (2017) Fictional Bodies, Factual Reports: Public inquiries, tv drama, and the interrogation of the NHS. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 14 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1755-1714

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This article addresses the question: ‘What can popular culture know?’ via an examination of the critique of one British public sector institution (the NHS) articulated through a medical drama aired on another British public sector institution (the BBC). I situate Jed Mercurio's Bodies (2004–6) in the context of political intervention in the NHS over the last 30 years, and explore the relation it bears to two public NHS scandals. I argue that Bodies is highly self-aware in its representation of the changes to professional life occasioned by successive waves of NHS reform, and directly indebted to the events of, and conditions surrounding, the 1990s Bristol heart scandal. I further claim, however, that the series situates the kinds of incompetence and mismanagement that underlay real-life events in Bristol within a fictionalised managerial workspace culture in which many of the recommendations for future practice articulated in the Kennedy Report are already in place. In so doing Bodies offers a proleptic perspective on what can go wrong in the NHS, anticipating in fiction the conclusions of the Francis Reports on the Mid-Staffs scandal, several years before the events unfolding there were exposed to public view. In that process, I conclude, the series lodges a more generalised critique of neo-liberal public sector reform implicitly extendable to other public sector institutions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of a paper published in Journal of British Cinema and Television (In Press), © Edinburgh University Press; please refer to the terms and conditions of use of the publisher.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Jed Mercurio, Bodies, NHS, medical drama, public sector, BBC, managerialism, audit, target culture, medical malpractice
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2016 09:01
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2021 08:56

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