Saturday (March 18)’s episode of Casualty was absolutely bleak and brutal, featuring as it did the death of a beloved staff member and the loss of two other regular characters.

We’ve had many sad Casualty episodes in the past and many sad deaths – Charlie (Derek Thompson) losing Duffy (Cathy Shipton) to dementia springs to mind and there have been countless others. We’ve also had a lot of episodes where the staff team have been under ridiculous levels of pressure, increasingly so recently.

But in the storylines that played out tonight the pressure was so relentless and the outlook was so disheartening that there seemed to be no hope at all, no light at the end of the tunnel apart from the willingness of the likes of Charlie and Dylan (William Beck) and Faith (Kirsty Mitchell) to keep turning up shift after shift, knowing they were fighting a losing battle against years of underfunding and neglect with little prospect of any improvement in sight.

The main focus of the story was on poor Robyn (Amanda Henderson), who had been in a car crash on her way home from her last ever shift in the ED and had been looking forward to a happy future with her fiancé Paul (Paul Popplewell) and her daughter Charlotte (Aurora Jones). The car crash happened at the end of the last episode on a day when resources were so stretched that they weren’t any ambulances available to go and help her.

When she was finally brought back to the ED, things were looking bad for her and even summoning the glorious Sacha Levy (Bob Barrett) from Keller was of little help when there were no free theatres and then no theatre staff to work in them. Eventually Sacha assembled a theatre team from David (Jason Durr), Max (Nigel Harman) and Dylan and together they battled to save Robyn’s life – to no avail.

David Hide was the one to break the news to the rest of the staff team and he communicated everything there was to know from his facial expression. He was absolutely broken, as was Charlie who collapsed in Dylan’s arms when he went to see the woman who’d been like a daughter to him lying dead in the operating theatre.

Even without this tragedy there were other terrible things happening all over the department. After David’s desperate hunt to find a private place for an old woman to die in dignity last week, this week a woman had a stroke on a trolley in the corridor while she was waiting to be seen.

A young boy who needed a drip to help manage his long-term condition was left waiting for hours because either the staff or the equipment were busy elsewhere. Another woman was told she had cancer in a corridor by an over-worked and distracted doctor. Meanwhile a demanding patient who had little wrong with him was demanding care and attention that the beleaguered staff were still obliged to give him.

And Faith discovered that her former patient Elsie (Amanda Barrie), who she’d developed quite a bond with, was another victim of the abuse that Dylan has been investigating in care homes.

It was little wonder that for some people it was all too much. As Dylan assembled the team to talk to them about what had happened to Robyn, the stresses of the whole day and the weeks and months before it made Marty (Shaheen Jafargholi) realise he’d had enough.

Earlier he’d spoken to Paige (Shalisha James-Davis) about his idealistic vision of the job when he started studying nursing at university. Now he was finished, he said. ‘It’s every day, Jacob,’ he insisted when Jacob (Charles Venn) tried to suggest they’d all had a bad day. ‘It took years for things to get like this.’

David agreed. He said he was ‘done, broken,’ and that he’d resigned. One by one the nurses handed in their badges and left – including Charlie.

Casualty is all but unthinkable without Charlie, who’s been in the show since episode one in 1986. As he got into his car it seemed like we might have an echo of that first ever episode, when we watched Charlie drive to the hospital in his yellow VW Beetle. Would his Casualty career end with him driving away?

It might have done, but first he listened to his messages on his phone and there was Robyn, apologising for having harsh words with him the night before. She said she liked the idea of picturing him in the department after she’d gone, never giving up and standing up for what’s right.

He got out of the car and went back inside to look after his patients. As Jacob handed him his pass, he said, ‘I’m not doing it for you.’

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2023-03-18T21:52:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd