Directors concerned Doctors ending means ‘vital stepping stone lost completely’

The final episode of Doctors will air in December 2024 (BBC/PA)
The final episode of Doctors will air in December 2024 (BBC/PA) The final episode of Doctors will air in December 2024 (BBC/PA)

Directors are concerned that the loss of daytime soap Doctors after 23 years means new starters in the industry could miss a “vital stepping stone” for future work.

The BBC announced on Wednesday that the long-running series, about the doctors and staff at a busy Midlands GP practice, launched in 2000, will come to an end.

Chief executive of industry body Directors UK Andy Harrower said: “At a time when directors and production teams are struggling for work, it’s especially sad to see this long-running drama come to an end. For many of our members, Doctors has been a launchpad for their careers.”

He cited Jordan Hogg – whose handheld camera-style episode of Casualty, Bafta said, won the show an award – and S J Clarkson – who has worked on dramas including Succession and Collateral – as examples of those who had “honed their craft” on Doctors.

Mr Harrower also referenced a training scheme for new directors that his organisation ran with the BBC.

He added: “Continuing drama is undoubtedly a training ground for directors. With this cancellation, coupled with that of Holby City, a smaller episode order of Casualty, and the move of Hollyoaks from linear to digital-only, we’re extremely concerned that this vital stepping stone is being lost completely.

“We want to understand the BBC’s plans as to how they will provide the career pathways that are being lost. How will the BBC ensure other recent daytime commissions bridge the gap to ensure continuing drama remains a rung in the ladder in the career of a director?”

Channel 4 had said previously that Hollyoaks, which is aimed at a young demographic, would take a streaming-first approach that included announcing in September that episodes would be available to watch on channel4.com the day before airing on the E4 channel.

The final episode of Doctors will air in December 2024 and the BBC said it would be working to give the show “the finale it deserves”.

The broadcaster said it had now become too expensive to make the show, which would need either investment to refurbish the sets or to be relocated.

A statement from the BBC said: “We have taken the very difficult decision to bring daytime drama Doctors to an end after 23 years.

“With super-inflation in drama production, the cost of the programme has increased significantly, and further investment is also now required to refurbish the site where the show is made, or to relocate it to another home.

“With a flat licence fee, the BBC’s funding challenges mean we have to make tough choices in order to deliver greater value to audiences.

“We remain fully committed to the West Midlands and all of the funding for Doctors will be reinvested into new programming in the region.

“We would like to thank all the Doctors cast and crew who have been involved in the show since 2000.

“We know the crucial role Doctors has played in nurturing talent, and we will work to develop new opportunities to support skills in scripted programming.

“The final episode will screen in December 2024 and we are working closely with BBC Studios to give it the finale it deserves.”

In response to the criticism from Directors UK, a BBC spokesperson said it will engage directors and writers about “onward opportunities” and is looking at what replaces the show in “the drama ecosystem”.

They also said that the BBC is “committed to increasing investment in training and development opportunities to help grow the next generation of scripted shows from the Midlands”.

The statement also said: “As part of reinvesting the Doctors funding, we will look to develop further plans and opportunities to boost talent and skills in scripted.”

Alexander Jacob, nations and regions committee chair for Directors UK’s board, who has worked on soaps including Casualty and Coronation Street, also said: “I’m grateful for the opportunities it (Doctors) provided, the knowledge it imparted, and the lasting impact it has had on my career.

“The BBC and other broadcasting networks must recognise the void left by Doctors and continue to invest in similar programmes, ensuring that aspiring directors have the training grounds they need to flourish, innovate, and contribute to the continued success of the industry.”

Doctors was filmed at the Pebble Mill Studios until 2004, before relocating to BBC Drama Village, also in Birmingham.

The show has featured a raft of famous guest stars over the years, including Emilia Clarke, Alison Hammond, Ruthie Henshall, Joe Pasquale, Eddie Redmayne and Sheridan Smith.

It has been nominated for five Baftas in its history, as well as a raft of British Soap Awards.

At the 2023 British Soap Awards it was nominated for best British soap and eight other prizes and won the gong for best on-screen partnership for Jan Pearson as Karen Hollins and Chris Walker as Rob Hollins.