A patient lies in a cupboard while others line the corridors on trollies. Alarms shriek left, right and centre. Another urgent case blasts through the door. The nurses and doctors need PPE now but ministers and health officials say not yet. “Trust the guidelines” says the boss. Try Amazon, advises a colleague.

School pupils are making visors, pizzas from the public are piled high in the staffroom, doctors and nurses who haven’t fallen sick yet are on their knees with exhaustion. Meanwhile, Boris is on the TV joking about shaking hands with “everybody” on a hospital visit.

And the UK is still three days from the first lockdown.

Breathtaking, a new drama starting tonight at 9pm on ITV1, states at the outset that it is based on the real experiences of NHS staff and patients during the pandemic. Just in case, perhaps, there is anyone still out there who cannot believe this had happened in 21st-century Britain.

Based on the memoir of Dr Rachel Clarke and adapted for the screen by her and co-writers Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty) and Prasanna Puwanarajah, Breathtaking aims to show the viewer the difference between what ministers said was happening and the reality on the front line.

You might think we’ve heard a lot about this lately from the Covid-19 inquiry hearings in London and Edinburgh. Evidence given by ministers and others has exposed the lack of preparedness and chaotic decision-making in governments north and south of the border.

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Even so, nothing said in all the hours of evidence so far can match the sheer visceral impact of this ITV drama. Suddenly, the viewer is back there, first afraid, then shocked, then angry. Extremely angry. Dr Clarke wants Breathtaking to be more than revelatory. “I hope it is going to stop people in their tracks.”

It would not be the first ITV1 drama to do so this year, with Breathtaking inevitably being compared to Mr Bates vs The Post Office in its potential to cause a stir.

The same goes for The Way, showing on BBC1 at the same time (catch up on either via BBC iPlayer and STV Player). Directed by Michael Sheen, written by James Graham and Adam Curtis, The Way shows a future Wales in turmoil, and the Union in crisis, after the closure of the steelworks in Port Talbot (an imagined scenario at the time of writing the series, now a reality).

While Mr Bates has been a phenomenon in its own right, the arrival of Breathtaking and The Way might suggest something more is afoot. Two months into 2024 and three major dramas, all political, all airing on prime time, all prompting debate and in the case of Mr Bates, action by the government. Is this a trend we see before us or just a coincidence? If this is the way the wind is blowing, should Scotland be elbowing its way into the action?

I think it is a coincidence that all three have arrived, like buses, at the same time. There have been Covid-related dramas before Breathtaking and there will be after. Previously, there was Help, featuring Jodie Comer as a nurse in a care home forced to accept untested patients. Partygate and This England looked at the Johnson-era revels in Downing Street. Mr Bates could have been made any time in the last 20 years, which is roughly how long the scandal has been going on.

Timing has been a factor with The Way, however. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Sheen said they made a point of getting the drama out there quickly. “The concern was if it was too close to an election the BBC would get nervous.”

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Sheen is a fascinating study in his own right when it comes to politics and drama. Many actors would run a mile from mixing the two in case it cost them a job. Not Sheen, however. He does politics with a small “p” and a big. He has played Tony Blair and was Frost in Frost Nixon. He has guest-edited the New Statesman and the Today programme. His Passion play set in Port Talbot became a film, The Gospel of Us. Later this month he plays the founding father of the NHS in a new play, Nye, at the National Theatre in London.

Nor does Sheen shy away from stirring things up, as when he said it was “hard to accept” non-Welsh actors playing Welsh characters. While he attracted sympathy from Scottish audiences also averse to having their accents mangled, critics pointed out that Sheen has played everyone from Brian Clough to Kenneth Williams with English accents.

Interestingly, there has to date been one no-go zone for Sheen.

“I’ve never actually spoken about independence,” he told the Sunday Times recently. “The only thing I’ve said is that it is worth a conversation. Talking about independence is a catalyst for other issues that need to be talked about. Shutting that conversation down is of no value at all. People say Wales couldn’t survive economically. Well, why not? And is that good? Is that a good reason to stay in the Union?”

He sounds like someone who might have more to say on the subject in future. Whether he will or not remains to be seen. Political dramas are having a moment just now, but that may not last. That depends how they do in the ratings. Breathtaking, with its trademark Jed Mercurio pace and relentless action, should attract an audience. The Way has a primetime slot on BBC1 but a primetime audience might want something else on a Monday.

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There is no denying, however, that Mr Bates vs The Post Office has made its mark (even if the fight for justice and compensation has a long way to go yet. It was an eye-opener for TV bosses and could encourage others to take a chance on political drama.

Who knows what writers might care to tackle in the months and years to come. Scotland has been a pioneer in political drama in the past. If there is a future in it, Scottish writers and production companies should be taking every chance they can to be a part of it. We have a tale or two waiting to be told. Who is brave enough to do so?