Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury stars in BBC NHS documentary with Fern Britton

Fern Britton and Stoke Mandeville celebrate 70 years of the NHS
Fern Britton and Stoke Mandeville celebrate 70 years of the NHS

Buckinghamshire resident and television presenter Fern Britton has appeared in a tear-jerking BBC television documentary explaining how doctors at Stoke Mandeville hospital saved her life two years ago.

Buckinghamshire resident and television presenter Fern Britton has appeared in a tear-jerking BBC television documentary explaining how doctors at Stoke Mandeville hospital saved her life two years ago.

To mark 70 years since the inaugaration of the National Health Service (NHS) the BBC have made a documentary series titled “Matron, Medicine and Me” to tell the story of various people’s experiences with the NHS, anchored around the tale of a celebrity or public figure.

In the first episode of the second series, shown on Monday 16 July, Fern Britton recounts how in July 2016, just a few days after a seemingly successful hysterectomy at Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, she found herself in the back of an ambulance returning to the hospital with crippling stomach pains.

Speaking to Deborah Sumner, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who coincedentally had delivered Fern’s two daughters years previously, the former ‘This Morning’ presenter explained how she felt more unwell than she ever had in her life.

“To be honest, I genuinely knew I was dying and all I could think about was my four children and my husband – it was frightening,” Fern said.

After under-going many tests, it was discovered she had sepsis, which is described as an infection getting out of control, caused by in this case, E. coli. Sepsis kill 44,000 people a year in the UK.

“I was in a bad way – so much so that taking antibiotics wouldn’t be enough to save my life. I needed immediate surgery,” Fern recalls.

In a particularly emotional scene, Fern meets Geraldine Tasker, the surgeon who saved her life. Fighting back the tears, Fern says “I’ll never forget you – you know that.”

Geraldine replies: “It’s what we do – this is what the NHS is about.”

The programme goes on to tell moving stories of members of the public who were also destined to become part of what Fern calls “the sepsis survivors club” and explains the many different ways in which the NHS fights infectious diseases, including a 174-page cleaning manual and a £1 billion cleaning bill per year.

Perhaps one of the most contemplative moments though occurs in the first thirty seconds. A doctor quips:

“70 years ago there was no emergency medicine – I don’t quite know what happened if you were unwell.”

Stoke Mandeville, which currently has 431 beds, treats over 48,000 inpatients and 219,000 outpatients a year.

It was founded in 1832 and became the main hospital in Aylesbury when the NHS was launched and all operations in the region were moved there.

Nowadays it houses the nations spinal injuries centre, which was opened by Princess Diana in 1983, as well as offering specialist care for burns, plastic surgery and opthalmology (disorders and diseases of the eye). The National Health Service was launched on 5 July 1948 under the stewardship of then Health Minister Aneurin Bevan.