Hospital drama Holby City will come to an end next March after 23 years on screen.
The BBC on Wednesday stunned fans of the popular drama by announcing it was to come to an end.
A statement read: “We are incredibly proud of Holby City but it’s with great sadness that we are announcing that after 23 years, the show will end on screen in March of next year.
“We sometimes have to make difficult decisions to make room for new opportunities and as part of the BBC’s commitment to make more programmes across the UK, we have taken the difficult decision to bring the show to a close in order to reshape the BBC’s drama slate to better reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing team at BBC Studios and all the cast and crew who have been involved in the show since 1999.
“Holby has been a stalwart with audiences, delighting millions of viewers each week and winning hundreds of awards with a compelling mix of cutting edge medical stories and explosive personal stories.
“We look forward to working with the team over the coming months to ensure that when it ends, Holby goes out on a high.”
A twitter account for the series posted that the show will continue to be broadcast every Tuesday until it ends in March 2022.
Within minutes, fans had started a petition calling for the soap to be saved.
The user behid the petition, who has called themselves Mr Holby, said they created the petition in hopes of rallying support to save the show.
The petition read: “After 23 years the BBC is going to end Holby City. In a statement they claim they want to move away to from old shows and start a new slate. Holby City has challenged the outlook in so many occasions and brought in so many great actors it will be a huge shame to end this program.
“Sign this petition so the BBC can see what a huge mistake it will be.”
The show was created by Tony McHale and Mal Young as a spin-off to drama Casualty. Casualty was originally broadcast in 1986 and is therefore the longest-running medical drama series in the world.
Holby City premiered on 12 January 1999.
It follows the lives of staff working at the fictional Holby City Hospital, which is the same hospital that features in Casualty, set in the fictional city of Holby.
Holby City has been nominated for over 100 awards and won six including a British Academy Television Award.
Anita Dobson, Paul Blackthorne and Lionel Jeffries are among the stars who have made guest appearances over the past two decades.
Former star Niamh McGrady was among those who tweeted about the sad news.
“Holby City I can’t believe this news,” she wrote on Twitter. “One of the happiest times in my career. Sending huge love to all the Holby Family past and present.”
Another fan, Mr P, wrote: “No way, surely this isn’t April 1st? My absolute fave TV show. I am beyond gutted to read this. Please rethink.”