On her way to the Tardis, Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) has stopped off to play an unusual type of doctor in Trust Me. She is a nurse pretending to be a doctor – an ‘imposter doctor’ – dealing with medical emergencies in an accident and emergency (A&E) department.
As Cath Hardacre, she is an extremely competent and dedicated nurse who harbours concerns about various malpractice issues going on at the Sheffield hospital where she works. When she finally raises her concerns with the hospital powers that be, she is sacked for whistleblowing. With her young daughter Molly (Summer Mason) to care for, her elderly father in care and a fairly useless ex-partner Karl (Blake Harrison), Cath is backed into a desperate corner.
The deception begins
At the same time, Cath’s best friend, Ally Sutton (Andrea Lowe), decides she’s had enough of being an overworked A&E doctor. She is leaving Sheffield and her job behind and heading to New Zealand to start a new life as a sheep farmer. Ally throws all of her medical-related documents – CV, degree, certificates, doctor’s identification etc. – into the bin. When Cath finds and retrieves them, she makes the risky decision to steal Ally’s identity and, with Molly in tow, heads to Edinburgh as Dr Ally Sutton.
Along the way, Cath reads some medical books, watches a couple of YouTube videos on how to do sutures and lands a job as a doctor in an A&E department at a struggling Edinburgh hospital. Before you know it she is nervously awaiting the arrival of ambulances carrying critically injured patients from car accidents, turning wrong-facing feet around the right way and winning the approval of her new colleagues through her skilled interventions that are actually saving lives.
Even when Cath is rendered panic-stricken and frozen after a mother and child are brought into the ward with horrific injuries from a car accident, she retains the essential support of consultant Dr Andy Brenner (Emun Elliot) and nurse Karen (Lois Chimimba).
Yes, Cath is actually a nurse with lots of medical training and knowledge already, but how long can this deception last before she's exposed? Indeed, the clock is ticking – as the lies get bigger, so too does the threat of her old life catching up with her and exposing her deceptive run.
Fake doctors are real
The idea that someone can steal the identity of a doctor and actually get a job as a doctor in a hospital would seem like an implausible premise if it wasn’t for the regularity that it apparently happens throughout the world.
Writer and creator of Trust Me, Dan Sefton (The Good Karma Hospital) is not only an acclaimed screenwriter but is also a practising A&E doctor in Britain (well, so he says…). And he is intrigued by fake doctors. Sefton says it happens more than people think and that the possibility of someone faking it as a doctor is indeed plausible.
“The culture of medicine lets you join in, and junior doctors are expected to not know stuff. You’re constantly learning on the job. It’s very possible to fake it until you make it”, he says.
In Trust Me, Sefton wanted to give an authentic glimpse into the workings of an A&E ward and how the medical staff actually behave behind the scenes. He references superstitions well known in the emergency services world like staff not being allowed to use the jinxed word ‘quiet’ for fear of the onslaught of work that will descend upon them once it is uttered, and the guaranteed chaos created on a Friday night with a full moon. Sefton also doesn’t let this opportunity pass without referring to real-life issues like the UK’s NHS being in crisis with understaffing, dangerously long shifts and lack of resources.
All the characters in Trust Me are relatable and the performances superb. None more so than that of Jodie Whittaker. Her performance is coolly excellent throughout the series which significantly helps Trust Me get away with the more incredible aspects of the storyline. Her relatively emotionless outward appearance never completely disguises the terror bubbling away underneath as she digs her way deeper into the lie.
Trust Me airs Thursday nights from 28 February at 9.30 pm on SBS. After broadcast, episodes will stream at SBS On Demand: