Tuesday 12th June 2012
Macmillan CNS Sarah Thompson spent four days at the BBC advising on a storyline for EastEnders.
Working in the Palliative Care team at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust is incredibly rewarding and busy. Every day is different, but even I was surprised by how varied my role could be when I ended up working on the set of EastEnders.
It all started during an away day with the team. Our manager said that EastEnders wanted help with the storyline over the new year period. We were pleased that they had come to us – it shows the good relationship Macmillan has with the BBC and that we are regarded as experts in our field by the media in general.
Being a huge EastEnders fan, I wanted to get involved. I also found out that the BBC would be donating £800 for my help, which would be split between the Trust and Macmillan.
Days later, I signed a BBC confidentiality agreement and received the script. I found out that Pat Evans, played by Pam St Clement, was going to die from pancreatic cancer. Pat was one of my favourite characters so I had mixed feelings when I found this out, but I wanted to show the huge difference having a Macmillan nurse could make at such a time.
I was so excited when the day came to start work on the set at the BBC studios in Borehamwood. I spent four days there and it was so interesting seeing how it all comes together. I was surprised by how much they used me. My input helped direct the acting in several scenes and I was able to make lots of observational comments.
The director and the actress involved were very receptive to everything I had to say. For example, when one of the actresses playing a nurse had nail varnish on, I said that would never happen, so they removed it. I also advised Pam that her breathing would be laboured as she neared the end of life, and I gave advice on the effects of medication, how to deliver the diagnosis and typical patient reactions.
Everyone on EastEnders was interested in my role and in Macmillan. I think they would certainly use us again as I got a lot of positive feedback from them.
I would recommend the experience to anyone who is prepared to take themselves out of their comfort zone and enter another world for a while. I was also well looked after and they were all incredibly informal and friendly. It was a good way to promote what Macmillan professionals do as well. Lots of the set members chatted to me about my job and what we do for our patients, so I hope I did us all proud.
Before the story aired, I did three national media interviews, and although I was nervous, I was pleased with how they came out. They were also done over the phone at a time that suited me.
It was a brilliant experience and made me look at an aspect of my job that previously I’d paid very little attention to. It has also made me feel a lot more connected to Macmillan as I have liaised regularly with staff, which I have enjoyed. It’s certainly got the potential to open doors for your career development not to mention a boost to your CV.
Watch scenes Sarah was involved with
You can watch two of the scenes that Sarah helped with by following the links below.
Pat Evans discovers she has cancer.
Pat Evans dies.
Want to get involved?
Macmillan always needs professionals to talk about their roles, services and the difference they make. Media work can be easy and quick to do, and the benefits of promotion, fundraising and raising awareness are huge.
Raising the profile of Macmillan’s work means that more people know what support is available to them and increases the support people give back to Macmillan. If you’d like to get involved, please check with your employer first.
Please email the media team or call your regional communications team - see the press contacts page for details.