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Review: BBC’s ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ highlights the strains on the NHS

Inspired by the 2017 best-selling memoir of the same name, BBC’s new comedy-drama series This Is Going to Hurt follows the trials and tribulations of junior doctor Adam Kay (Ben Whishaw).


Kay, an obstetrics and gynaecology doctor (or, as he affectionately refers to it, "brats and tw*ts"), is first introduced while assisting a labouring woman in the hospital car park on his way to work. He then comically proceeds to take the woman on a "shortcut" to the labour ward via faulty service lifts and corridors, perfectly setting the tone for the show.


Frequently breaking the fourth wall, Kay’s sarcastic quips and humorous insight counter-balance the seriousness of many a cord-prolapse and emergency C-Section. Kay’s excellent comedic timing makes him a character to root for as he juggles angry patients, anti-social work hours and medical emergencies all whilst trying to maintain relationships with his boyfriend and family.


Whilst the series primarily focuses on Kay, one performance not to be neglected is Ambika Mod’s as young trainee doctor Shruti. A character not from the original book, Shruti is a struggling junior in obstetrics and gynaecology, balancing exams with 90-hour work weeks under Kay’s supervision.



Offering arguably the most heart-breaking character arc and stand-out performance in episode six, Mod’s portrayal of the stress that many trainee doctors no doubt endure and what it can potentially lead to will leave viewers reeling.


This Is Going to Hurt effectively balances its comical moments, one, in particular, being a scene where staff are told to refer to patients as "clients", with the sometimes devastating realities of working for the NHS.


When comparing the book to the series, it's safe to say that there are some clear differences.


The book itself is hugely comical and relies heavily on Kay’s anecdotes about unusual patients and situations. Yes, some parts of the book are harder to read than others, but on the whole, it leans more on the side of comedy as opposed to drama.


The series, on the other hand, is much heavier. Whether it’s the fact that the visuals are laid out in front of your eyes, forcing you to witness the stillbirths, emergencies and death first-hand as opposed to in your head whilst reading. Some would argue that this would happen naturally in the transition from book to screen, however that is not the only difference.


The tone itself differs, with the series having much more to say and making more of statement about the treatment of NHS workers, particularly through the addition of the character Shruti.


Despite being set in 2006 and the book having been written pre-covid, the series seems extremely timely and much-needed during the current strain on the NHS.


In one of the final scenes of the series, Kay describes the NHS as "a broken system with shoddy conditions" and goes on to highlight the sickening statistic that "one doctor in this country takes their own life every three weeks".


It does not shy away from or try to glamourise the reality of working for the NHS and instead acts as a social commentary, showcasing the urgency and desperate need there is for reformation of the system.


Have you watched This Is Going to Hurt? Let us know what you thought in the comments!