Ross Kemp on controversial coronavirus documentary: “The NHS wanted us to go in there”

The actor-turned-documentarian discusses the backlash to his NHS frontline film and his upcoming look at Britain's volunteer army

Credit: BBC

Ross Kemp has said that his ITV documentary, On The NHS Frontline, was “a very important story to tell”, as the NHS wanted him to film inside an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

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Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Kemp said that the documentary was criticised before the public even had a chance to watch it.

“The criticism happened before it went out. It was like they didn’t even judge the book by the cover, they hadn’t even seen the cover and they judged,” Kemp said.

“I can understand that people are emotive if their loved ones are in the ICU and they didn’t like the idea that I was going in, but I wasn’t the only person that was going in with a camera into the ICU.”

He continued: “I think it’s a very important story to tell and the NHS wanted us to go in there, I didn’t suddenly rock up and go, I want to go into the ICU with a camera.”

ross kemp
Kemp whilst filming On the NHS Frontline

“NHS England were involved, Milton Keynes’s University Hospital were involved and ultimately Hamid Manji, who was the doctor in charge of the ICU, wanted me to go in there to show people what happens if you don’t social distance, if you don’t abide by the strict rules that the government guidelines set out,” he added.

Milton Keynes University Hospital granted Kemp special access to its ICU for the documentary to show first-hand how NHS staff are coping with the fight against coronavirus.

Although some praised the documentary for highlighting the work of the NHS, others took to social media to criticise the film, pointing out that while patients were kept isolated from their families, Kemp and his crew were allowed to visit the hospital.

Milton Keynes University Hospital defended the documentary on Twitter, saying that their decision to grant Kemp access was “risk accessed and agreed in discussion with NHS England”. The hospital added, “We believe it’s in the public interest to show them how hospitals are preparing.”

Kemp has since filmed another coronavirus documentary, Britain’s Volunteer Army, in which he meets some of ordinary people who are helping the vulnerable during this pandemic.

Airing on BBC One next week, the series looks at the work of volunteers across the country to combat COVID 19, including a gin distiller supplying hand sanitiser to Thames Valley Air Ambulance, seamstresses who are sewing scrubs for Wexham Park Hospital and children writing letters to care homes to cheer up their residents.

“It’s about celebrating the coming together of the British and people of different nations, no matter what their religion, whatever their class, whatever their ethnicity – they’re coming together in their streets and their cul de sacs for the common good,” he said.

“We’ve been quite a divided nation lately because of Brexit and everything else, and now we’ve got this awful enemy that can affect all of us and any of us and we’re coming together to defeat it.”

From meeting volunteers at a London Sikh temple who provide 2000 meals for frontline workers to Reading school students making 25,000 PPE masks, Kemp said that he’s been “overwhelmed” by the generosity and spirit of people across the nation.

“I think we are at our best maybe when our backs are against the wall and I know a lot of people haven’t had it too easy before this happened, but we are really up against it now and that kind of Blitz spit has come to the fore,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s time to start pointing fingers at governments or administrations or anybody, I think the most important thing is that we hold tight together and we get through this together.”

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Ross Kemp: Britain’s Volunteer Army begins Monday 18th May at 10am on BBC One