Dame Barbara Windsor “eternally grateful” for Trust nurse's guidance on breast cancer storyline

A nurse from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has helped advise the stars of Eastenders on the portrayal of Peggy Mitchell’s breast cancer story line.


Dr Victoria (Vickki) Harmer, a team leader and clinical nurse specialist at the Trust’s breast care unit, helped legendary Eastenders star, Dame Barbara Windsor, who plays Peggy Mitchell, to accurately portray Peggy’s recent breast cancer storyline, which saw her leave the soap permanently after 22 years.  


Dame Barbara Windsor, who plays Peggy Mitchell said: “Having a qualified cancer nurse on set such as Vickki has been a great sense of comfort to me as an actress, approaching such a serious and sensitive health matter is very daunting as you wish to get things right as a mark of respect for the people are affected by this awful illness.

“I think it's imperative that TV, film and theatre companies continue to seek professional advice and work alongside such people and organisations when dealing with health matters. I will be eternally grateful to Vickki for her guidance."


Vickki has previously advised Eastenders on the Carole Jackson breast cancer storyline and her role as the medical advisor for the Peggy Mitchell storyline began when Eastenders approached her again to provide her medical expertise. During filming, Vickki worked closely with the production team and actors to ensure the programme gave a realistic and credible portrayal of the illness. She also worked on set with departments such as wardrobe, hair, make-up and props to make sure the scenes were as accurate as possible.


Vickki said about her experiences of advising on the Eastenders set:

“I was delighted to be asked to advise on such a momentous storyline.  Eastenders has a long history of accurately portraying breast cancer storylines which ensures that the public watching at home are receiving accurate advice about breast cancer. I am exceptionally proud to be given to opportunity to ensure these important storylines remain as true to life as possible.”


Vickki has previously advised on breast cancer storylines for film, television and radio programmes including Coronation Street, The Archers and most recently on the film Miss You Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. When Vickki is not advising on films she manages team of nurses at the Trust who help guide women and their families though breast cancer from screening, to treatment and beyond. She also runs a specialist nipple tattoo clinic for women who have their breasts reconstructed follow surgery.