Ashley Thomas Emmerdale

MHA is delighted to reveal it has been working with the cast and crew of Emmerdale on the storyline that will reveal one of the soap’s longest serving characters has been diagnosed with stroke-related vascular dementia.

Viewers of the ITV favourite will witness Vicar Ashley Thomas – played by actor John Middleton – being diagnosed with dementia on 19 November.

But what they won’t know is how MHA has provided advice and guidance to the ITV drama on its scripts, as well as facilitating visits by John to Glen Rosa, our care home in Ilkley that has a specialist wing for people living with dementia.

Emmerdale researcher Liam Johnson approached us during the summer of 2015 after hearing about our work at Glen Rosa. We arranged for John to visit the home, which cares for 14 residents in its specialist Kitwood House dementia wing and a further 33 people in the home.

During one of his visits, we spoke with John about his research into the storyline his character has started and what he had learnt about stroke-related vascular dementia.

“The research I started was because I want everything to be accurate. I was anxious and careful to be specific about the type of dementia Ashley develops and what we can say about it,” he said.

“What surprised me was how much dementia varies from person to person. People’s dementia is as different as their personalities. I very much saw that when I visited Glen Rosa.

“What I have taken away from my visits to Glen Rosa is what friends and relatives notice more about personality changes. We have built that into the scripts. You will notice Ashley will lose his temper with somebody.

“We are very proud of the show and we like to get things right. If we get things right, it reaches out to people.”

MHA’s dementia lead Kate Fisher and Media Relationships Manager Theresa Knight have been working with researcher Liam on making sure that scenes are accurate, including checking scripts and meeting with script writers.

Kate said: “It has been great working with Emmerdale on this storyline. We know from our own work with people living with dementia how this condition affects not just individuals but also their families and friends.

“We are very much looking forward to the storyline developing and being involved in making sure the script is an accurate portrayal of stroke-related vascular dementia and how it people’s lives.”

Added Theresa: “Right from our initial meeting with John and Liam, we were impressed by how they want to make sure Emmerdale gets the storyline involving Ashley developing dementia accurate.

“It has been great to welcome John to Glen Rosa, where they were able to visit our specialist dementia wing and also to speak with a family member of one of our residents and with staff.

“We look forward to this relationship between MHA and the Emmerdale cast and crew continuing as the storyline involving John and his character Ashley progresses.”

Liam said: “When we were first told about the storyline involving Ashley being diagnosed with dementia, we knew we needed to get it right. Despite what people think, dementia is an overarching term for a number of forms so we needed the scripts and storyline to be accurate.

 “MHA has been brilliant in checking draft scripts for us to make sure that what viewers see on their screens is accurate. We have discussed potential areas where the story might go in the coming months and Kate has been letting us know what is realistic and what isn’t.

“Without this input and the partnership we have developed, we could not have made sure the storylines are as accurate as they are and we look forward to developing the storyline with the help and support of MHA in the future.”


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