A new star in Bradford is born - but it is not an actor or an actress - it is an NHS hospital.

St Luke's Hospital has grabbed the lead role in a new TV drama series called The Royal, set in the 1960s.

The show is described as a spin-off of the hugely-successful ITV show Heartbeat which is set in the same era.

Wendy Craig, who starred in the BBC comedy Butterflies, is to star in the show alongside Ian Carmichael, Michael Stark and Heartbeat's 'Greengrass' Bill Maynard.

Yorkshire Television has renovated the run-down old maternity block at the hospital in Little Horton which was a former work-house, transforming furniture, decoration, curtains and linen into 1960s replicas.

It will be the first time part of a working hospital has been used for a television series.

A Yorkshire Television spokesman said: "The series tells of the trials and tribulations of the staff and patients at a small cottage hospital during the 1960s, a time when the NHS was experiencing massive reforms and the reverberations of which can be still seen to this day.

"The hospital drama, which is a spin-off of the hugely popular Yorkshire Television drama series, Heartbeat, will see both the stories and characters complementing each other."

Wendy Craig plays the role of an autocratic matron and former Brookside favourite Michael Stark, who played Sinbad, will play the role of a much put-upon porter.

Bill Maynard, 73, was the star of Heartbeat for 10 years until he suffered a stroke in June 2000.

He will play the same role he played in Heartbeat as Claude Greengrass.

The series will include guest stars and established Heartbeat stars who will appear in storylines.

Filming started last week and the show will be transmitted on ITV1 in 2003.

A Bradford NHS Trust spokesman said: "The block taken over by ITV was disused and is well away from the main buildings. Having a TV studio in the grounds will not interfere in any way with the efficient running of the hospital."

The Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust has earned a three star rating as one of the best and most efficient in the country last year.