Oxford doctor and author Rachel Clarke has co-written an ITV drama based on her experiences during the pandemic.

Breathtaking, based on her book of the same title, is being screened next month.

Filming of the three-part series was completed in Northern Ireland last year. 

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The drama stars Joanne Froggatt in the role of a frontline hospital consultant and is based on Dr Clarke’s unflinching personal memoir of the greatest public health crisis in living memory.

Oxford Mail: Joanne Froggatt, right, in BreathtakingThe memoir has been adapted for television by Dr Clarke and former junior hospital doctors Jed Mercurio - who created Line of Duty - and Prasanna Puwanarajah.

The drama has been directed by Craig Viveiros (Angela Black, The Watch, The War of the Worlds).

Oxford Mail: Dr Rachel Clarke in 2016Dr Clarke, a palliative care doctor, told the Guardian one motivation for writing Breathtaking was the “amount of misinformation and spin and downright lies from the government".

She added that a nurse at her trust caught Covid and died in hospital.

She said: "She had the pitiful PPE of a paper mask and plastic pinny. 

"You think of that, and then you think of Matt Hancock, literally going on national TV and saying there are no problems with PPE.

Oxford Mail: Joanne Froggatt stars in Breathtaking"At the time it felt grotesque, the mismatch between how brave and selfless frontline staff are being versus these lies on behalf of the government.”

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The three-part series has been produced by Mr Mercurio’s independent production company, HTM Television.

Jed Mercurio said during filming: "Everyone at HTM Television has felt privileged to dramatise Rachel Clarke’s hauntingly illuminating memoir of health workers struggling to cope with the extraordinary challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I’m honoured to have collaborated with Rachel and Prasanna on this important drama, and thrilled to be working with a cast led by Joanne Froggatt and crew led by director Craig Viveiros.”  

Breathtaking in three hour-long episodes recounts the devastating impact of the pandemic through the eyes of Acute Medicine Consultant Dr Abbey Henderson, played by Golden-Globe-winning actress Joanne Froggatt (Sherwood, Downton Abbey, Angela Black, Liar).

Oxford Mail: Dr Rachel Clarke in UkraineOn completion of filming in May Joanne Froggatt said: "I feel truly honoured to be playing Dr Abbey Henderson in Breathtaking, based on Dr Rachel Clarke’s beautifully written, poignant and shocking book of the same name.

"When I first read the incredible scripts they moved me to tears on many occasions.

"I felt so passionately that I had to be a part of telling this story, the real story, of what was really happening behind the closed doors of the hospitals during the pandemic.”

“Our NHS staff are nothing less than absolute heroes in my eyes. 

Oxford Mail: "I hope telling this story goes a little way towards us understanding their truth, their lived experience and honouring their unbelievable commitment and sacrifice on behalf of us all.” 

Breathtaking will be shown on ITV1 in February. 

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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