Kate Garraway: Derek's Story on ITV review - magnificent and heartbreaking

Kate and Derek at home during filming in May 2023 (©ITV)
Kate and Derek at home during filming in May 2023 (©ITV)

It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to Kate Garraway’s latest – and last – documentary about life with her husband Derek Draper. Maybe with the conversation the pair have at the start of the episode, Draper wielding a pen and writing notes as if he’s in a cabinet meeting.

“My name is Derek Draper, and I want you to hear my story,” he says slowly to the camera.

“You’ve written, ‘Covid changed everything,’” Garraway responds. “Where’s your story going to end?”

His answer: “Right here.”

Those words are tragically prescient: the film would end up following what proved to be the last few months of Draper’s life.

Derek’s Story, which features the only to-camera interviews he gave after contracting Covid, was ultimately green-lit by Garraway after her husband passed away in January, because he had wanted it to be made. How glad I am that she did, because not only is this a heartbreaking bit of television, it’s also a much-needed, loud condemnation of a system that lets millions of people struggle and dig themselves deep into debt without governmental assistance in the name of ‘care’.

The film follows Garraway and Draper as they go about their lives: Draper attempting to recover from the virus that destroyed his body, and Garraway as she tries to support him and their children, while also paying the bills that keep her husband alive.


It is unsparing: watching Draper’s devastated crying as he tries and fails to stand up unaided is particularly harrowing, as are his breathy, one-word replies to the camera about where he was born (”Chorley” and what he values: “Equality”.) But throughout it all, Garraway’s relentless positivity in the face of such staggering adversity is astounding.

She fills out medical applications in the back of a taxi between jobs; she video calls Draper during her shift as a radio presenter (“Well done darling!” she praises him between songs) and helps with his care, a man who can no longer function as a partner in any practical sense. During a quieter moment, she admits “I’m trying to work out if I feel loved by him.”

It looks exhausting – and indeed, we’re told that this probably contributed to the “heart scare” Garraway experienced some months back. “Kate… had pains in her chest and I think threw up on herself in the car” on the way to work, a friend explains. She was taken to hospital. The episode is a sign, as if one is needed, of the terrible toll the past three years have taken on her body.

But Garraway makes little of this, and instead chooses to focus her efforts, and the documentary, on the broader strain that being an unpaid carer in a broken system has put on her and her family’s lives.

We learn that up to 10.6 million people are currently working as unpaid carers for their loved ones. Some appear here, to testify on just how awful and draining the experience can be (“I’m not living, I’m just existing,” says one).

Garraway explains that Draper’s care has sent her finances careering into the red. His treatment costs £16,000 a month, which has put her “between £500,000 and £800,000” in debt.

"Derek's care costs more than my salary from ITV,” she says. “I can't earn enough money to cover my debt because I am managing Derek's care, and I can't even use the money I do have to support Derek's recovery because it's going on the basics all the time."

Kate Garraway collecting her MBE (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
Kate Garraway collecting her MBE (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

It’s a galling condemnation of the current broken system: one in which Draper doesn’t even qualify as ill enough (or poor enough) to need governmental assistance. And the system itself is a labyrinth: in one instance, Garraway explains that she has to apply for “a few key bits of care” that she didn’t get previously because she was referred to the wrong place.

In another, she explains to an interviewee that she has to buy incontinence pads for Draper herself, because she still doesn’t know where to request them from the NHS. “I just don’t know who to ask,” she says – and in houses around the country, millions of other people are likely doing the same.

The end, when it does come, is horrible. We hear, rather than see, Draper’s guttural wails as he descends into distress and confusion – “you’re mean to me!” he tells a confused Garraway – and, after his death, return with her to the room that housed his hospital bed for three years. Now, it’s become a sitting room once more.

But this isn’t the end, she tells us: she’s determined his story will act as a rallying cry to politicians and audiences.

“It’s not about Derek or me, it’s about having a society where caring isn’t a luxury,” she says. “We are all going to need it. We are all going to need it... it’s about somebody giving you a chance of living.” Now that is a legacy to be proud of.

Streaming on ITV and ITVX