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On call with Dr Grumpy; Sexist, arrogant, rude - Ian Kelsey is all of these as Casualty's moaning medic. But in real life he just oozes beside manner.

Byline: Paul English

IAN KELSEY may be the grumpiest medic in Casualty, but in real life he's incredibly relieved he's just playing at doctors and nurses.

As senior registrar Patrick Spiller, Ian is the charmless, arrogant, sexist homophobe who makes life even more difficult than it already is for his colleagues in the accident and emergency team.

But after a day on shift at London's Whitechapel Hospital with the A&E staff and Dr Gareth Davies, Ian is under no illusions real life medics have got it easy.

"Gareth is a young lad," says Ian after spending 12 hours with the young medic. "Yet he's got one hell of a lot of responsibility, with people's lives in his hands."

As Dr Spiller, Ian at least looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. But that's just the mark of how convincing an actor he is.

"I don't think I could do his job," says Ian, who was in Emmerdale for three years as Dave Glover before joining Casualty.

"There are plenty of other jobs out there you could enjoy without that responsibility and without having to learn very long words."

Ian spent 12 hours shadowing the experts for Get Real With Casualty - a special programme which goes behind the scenes on a real life casualty ward.

Along with Ian Bleasdale, who plays ambulance man Josh, and Sandra Huggett, who's cast as senior house officer Holly Miles, Ian saw first hand what goes on at the sharp end of hospital life.

For Sandra Huggett, the experience taught her the value of re-takes on set.

"We can do it in 20 takes if need be. But it wasn't like that at Whitechapel," she says. "I was a bit anxious about it at first. On set I know that I'm pulling a fake organ out of a fake torso, but these were real people."

One thing which startled Sandra was the volume of paperwork taken on by the doctors. Her estimate was that at least half of Whitechapel Hospital senior house officer Dr Ollie Seyfried's time was taken up with clerical duties.

But mountains of paperwork aren't the only thing which holds doctors back, Sandra noticed.

"I couldn't believe the amount of time wasters," she says. "We had a guy in there who was complaining that he had had hiccups for three days.

"Imagine coming to casualty with that," she says. "To make matters worse, he couldn't speak much English which didn't help at all.

"There are a lot more people than I imagined out there who aren't registered with their GP. So whenever something goes wrong with them they come along to accident and emergency.

"One woman even turned up with what was effectively a hangover."

Things did get more serious, however. One patient arrived with his fingertip hanging off.

"When you see something like that you can associate with the pain involved," she says. "It was quite difficult to watch the doctor lift up the flap and clean around it.

"But the guy was a very jolly character and had been drinking before it, so I think he was numb to the pain."

And when a young man was rushed in with suspected spinal injuries after a fall from scaffolding, Sandra felt utterly helpless.

"They thought at first that he might be paralysed," she says. "His wife was so worried, and the atmosphere just dropped for about two hours because everyone was so concerned for him. He was okay in the end, though.

"They obviously have to keep going with their shift when something like that happens - and that's amazing," she says.

Ian Bleasdale, who plays ambulance man Josh, almost had to attend one of the most sickening crimes in recent times with the ambulance crew - the murder of Damilola Taylor in London.

"They were actually en route to where he was found," says Sandra. "But they were told to turn back by another crew who got there first and found that he'd already died.

"How Ian would have coped with that I don't know. At the end of the day we're only actors, and not trained to deal with death and illness every day."

In fact, the most doctors in television land have to worry about is whether they'll be good at kidding on.

It's something Ian Kelsey was acutely aware of when he left Emmerdale for Casualty.

"I was wary of going into another long running and established series because I just didn't know if I could shake off Dave Glover," he says. "Millions of people watched Emmerdale when he was killed off and you don't get much more dramatic than that.

"But amazingly it hasn't taken too long for me to become recognised as Patrick Spiller of Casualty and I'm very grateful for this fantastic chance.

"I still find it amazing that I am acting for a living," he says. "It was all a bit of a fluke. My favourite subject at school was always woodwork so it made sense to do a joinery apprenticeship when I left.

"But although me and my mates had a great laugh we were all pretty bored with what we were doing. So a couple of us went along to the local amateur dramatic society for a bit of laugh more than anything."

It became a bit more than that when Ian landed a place at Guildford Drama School at the age of 24. Still he wasn't entirely sure that acting was for him - until a chance trip around the legendary Pinewood Studios changed his mind.

"I was working at Pinewood for one scene in a film called Wild Justice and it was so exciting," he says. "Driving round those famous studios as a young fresh actor, I knew then that I'd made the right choice.

"Acting gives me the chance to be a different character in a different life in a totally different world from the one I knew and had been brought up in.

"I couldn't resist the part of Patrick," says Ian. "I love him and I couldn't ask for a better character to play. He's somebody to get my teeth into. He works in A&E purely because he likes the glory of saving lives but his bedside manner is not very good, to put it mildly."

On screen, Ian's character is notorious for using and abusing women. In real life he is happily single and lives in a flat in West London when he's not filming Casualty in Bristol.

"Sure there's a danger of getting typecast, but let's face it, everyone loves a bad boy," he says. "And I love those roles, they're more interesting.

"Patrick may be charmless but he does have a heart, even if he keeps it hidden most of the time. He is not very socially aware. He tackles Adam about being a gay doctor in a patronising and inept way - to which Adam retaliates brilliantly by teasing Patrick about his own sexuality.

"And he's appallingly sexist. He thinks nursing is a job for girls who're there just to mop his brow."

After 12 hours amid the chaos and trauma of Whitechapel Hospital, Ian Kelsey and co know better than that.

Get Real With Casualty, BBC1, Saturday, 9.05pm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 28, 2001
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