New six-part series created and written by Lucy Gannon for BBC One
Introduction by Lucy Gannon
When I finished writing 'Peak Practice' I vowed I would never type 'sphygmomanometer' again. At least, not in a script. Then came 'Bramwell' and the vow fell aside. After about 24 screen hours of amputations, consumption, leeches and syphilis, I renewed my vow; never again would that word feature in a script.
The good news is that I have not had to type 'sphygmomanometer' in any of my Frankie episodes.
The usual big tick at the side of a proposed series idea is that it will contain life and death drama, the 'to be or not to be' of life. But Frankie is about District Nurses, or, as they're often known now 'Community Nurses' and they are not the SAS of the nursing profession. They've moved on from the bicycles with a basket on the front, but they still don't have flashing blue lights or a rescue helicopter. What they do have is relevance to our everyday lives, a fund of stories and experience and humour, a high level of professionalism and commitment. There can't be many people who have never come across, been helped by, or know of a District Nurse. They are the unsung heroes of the NHS.
Very early on in my research I realised that these nurses never know what they will face at the beginning of each working day. Their counterparts in hospitals work surrounded by colleagues, sometimes by security staff, often monitored by CCTV. The paramedic may arrive alone at an incident but will soon be joined by police, ambulance, etc.
The Community Nurse, however, might receive notification of her new patient by email or a phone call. Their records are often cursory and sometimes incomplete. And she must walk up the path to that front door and knock on it, alone, not knowing what sort of reception there will be. Her patients can be rowdy young men with rugby injuries or the bewildered 90 year old with a broken hip. When that door is opened it might reveal a drug addict, a drunk, anyone. And she or he must be ready to treat them, always aware that she is in their home, that she is there as a guest, that she needs diplomacy and forbearance quite as much as she needs nursing skill.
I am fascinated by the secrets of normal, banal life, the small slices of secret lives going on behind closed doors. The District Nurse is privy to these secrets, she walks in on them every day, and it makes for a fascinating work life. And, I hope, drama. Small people have stories to tell - life's not all about bombs and killings and subterfuge, revenge and passion. Sometimes it's about you and me.
During my research I was relieved and delighted to discover that the nurses we spoke to were unfailingly lively, full of humour (they need to be!), and each had a great fund of stories and experience. We could see straight away that there would be plenty of stories to tell and worlds to discover.
I had a character in my head, a vital, stubborn, intelligent but impulsive, woman who headed up a team of lively and very different professionals. As I wrote Frankie into life, the other characters popped up around her, and I fell in love with them all.
I suppose that's what writing is, falling in love with imaginary friends and having fun with them. And hoping, really, really hoping, that the audience will have fun with them too.
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