'We felt it was in our interests to let people see how Great Ormond Street operates,' says Ros Cliffe, director of public affairs and general fundraising, explaining why the trust decided to let the BBC's Children's Hospital series on its wards for the whole of 1995. It was not a decision lightly taken. At the time, the controversial fly-on-the-wall series about the Royal Opera House was showing and there was nervousness about how the trust, its staff and patients would be portrayed.
The chief executive and the medical director discussed the project, decided it was a good idea and agreed ground-rules with the BBC team. These were confirmed in writing. Managers and staff had no right of veto. 'We did not have editorial control and nor did we expect it. The crew had carte blanche to film where they wanted,' says Ms Cliffe. But the press office did see the programmes pre-transmission, 'not to say 'yea or nay' but so we could work out what issues the programmes would throw up', says Ms Cliffe. It was agreed that parents could stop the filming at any moment, or they could ask for something to be removed at editing stage. One child who died after filming was completed was edited out at a parent's request. The project was then 'sold' to staff.
'We set up a series of presentations where key members of the BBC team could explain what they were trying to do, and staff could ask them questions. Anyone who did not want to be involved did not have to be,' says Ms Cliffe.
Posters were put up to inform patients and parents what was going on. Parents had to sign consent forms where they or their children were filmed.
The film crews were not usually accompanied by a trust press officer - the normal practice - but were in regular telephone contact with trust managers. There were weekly meetings between the chief press officer and the series producer.
The hospital's experience was a good one. 'We had a terrific crew. They kept disruption to a minimum. We had one complaint - that a crew was in the way.'
The trust feels it gained from the programmes, which attracted 8 million viewers. 'Great Ormond Street is a centre of excellence and it is to the hospital's advantage for the public to see the kinds of things that can be done here,' says Ms Cliffe.