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Is 'This is Going to Hurt' based on a true story?

This is Going to Hurt star Ben Whishaw
(Image credit: BBC)

This Is Going To Hurt is a new seven-part series that follows a doctor named Adam, who is junior enough to suffer the crippling hours, but senior enough to face a constant barrage of terrifying medical responsibilities as he navigates life on a hospital ward. So it's going to be intense.

We're no stranger to medical dramas on TV, as the BBC has been home to the likes of Casualty and Holby City for years, and are loosely inspired by the UK healthcare system and those who work within it. 

But where has the inspiration from This Is Going To Hurt come from? Read on to find out all about the real-life events depicted in the series...

Is 'This is Going to Hurt' based on a true story?

Yes. The series is based on the life and career of Adam Kay, a former doctor who has written a multi-million copy bestselling book of the same name. His memoir discusses "97-hour weeks, life-and-death decisions, and a constant tsunami of bodily fluids" and is a raw and sometimes funny look at some of the things he witnessed during his time working on hospital wards.

The synopsis adds: "Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay's This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying, and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know — and more than a few things you didn't — about life on and off the hospital ward."

So the stories we'll see in the TV adaptation of This is Going to Hurt are all based on Adam's real-life experiences, with the lead role played by Ben Whishaw.

Joking about the patients, Adam revealed: "I rather hope that no patients will recognise themselves, because I don’t particularly want to end up in prison for breaking their confidentiality. Although I guess that would make my diaries more interesting for the next few years."

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What does Adam Kay do now?

Since leaving his role as a doctor, Adam continues to write and has also published a book called Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas which explores what life is like on the wards over the festive period, which became a hugely successful follow up to the first book. 

Adam is also well known on the comedy scene, having founded the musical comedy group Amateur Transplants at medical school and writing the 2015 BBC3 sitcom series Crims

He has a comedy tour planned where he'll be sharing some stories from his upcoming book Undoctored as he performs at locations such as the SSE Arena Wembley, Leeds' First Direct Arena, Brighton Centre, and Newcastle's Utilita Arena.

In addition to this, Adam is a columnist for the Sunday Times and a patron of The Lullaby Trust which raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies and offers emotional support for bereaved families.

Lucy Buglass
Lucy Buglass

Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2016 with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.


She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story and Black Mirror, but recently she's loving everything about Apple TV's Severance