Inside Casualty’s Derek Thompson’s hidden health battle and life with famous wife

Casualty legend Derek Thompson, who plays nurse Charlie Fairhead, has been favourite since the show started.

The Irish star joined in 1986 and is now ready to say goodbye after a long 38 years on set. Throughout his time on the show he’s had some wild storylines.

Nurse Fairhead has been hit by an ambulance on his wedding day, shot in the chest, and even had a heart attack during a scary gang fight. Last year, he told fans he was leaving the show, and we’ll see his last scenes this year.


When he talked about leaving, praised Pete Salt, a real-life nurse who helped make the show and inspired Derek’s character. He said: “Together with the writers and producers, I have tried to bring to Charlie the compassion, kindness, heroism and sound judgment that we all see and love in Pete. I want to say thanks to Pete and everyone else over that time who has inspired me in bringing this character to life.”


Outside of Casualty, he’s also appeared as Charlie in Holby City and HolbyBlue.

But what about his life away from the TV screen? Derek has been open with his fans for many year about all areas of his life including his health, his family – and even a hidden career.


Secret health struggle

Casualty Charlie
Derek has been open about his health away from the show (Image: BBC)

At 61, Derek found out he had dystonia, which the NHS describes as a condition that causes uncontrollable muscle movements and sometimes pain.

The symptoms can be really tough, like muscles cramping up, body parts twisting weirdly, shaking, and eyes blinking loads. It doesn’t usually go away, but there are ways to make it better.

Derek once told The Express about when he first started feeling unwell. He said: “I began to get cramps and spasms in my neck and tremors which caused my whole head to nod.”

“Being a typical bloke, I tried to ignore it. But when it got worse I started to fear I had Parkinson’s disease, like my mother. My father told me to seek a proper diagnosis and I was told it was dystonia.”

Now, Derek gets Botox every three months to keep his dystonia in check, and since 2006, he’s been helping out the Dystonia Society as their patron.

Well-known wife and son

Dee Sadler
Dee Sadler is also an actress (Image: DAILY EXPRESS)

Derek’s role in Casualty seemed like destiny as he met his second wife, Dee Sadler, just a year after joining the show. Dee appeared in an episode of the second series as Maggie, a character who needed rescuing from a cave before being hospitalised. She has also starred in films such as No Place Like Home, Ultraviolet and The Little Drummer Girl.

The pair tied the knot in 1989 and have a son named Charlie. Derek once shared about his family: “Dee is the love of my life. We’ve been together for 24 years now and we have a son called Charlie. And, no, we didn’t name him after my character in Casualty!”

Their son Charlie also had a cameo in Casualty as a baby. He was featured in a 1990 episode as the son of regular character Duffy.

As of 2010, Derek and Dee were living in a rented flat in Bristol and owned a house in Brixton. Derek also has an older son from his previous marriage to Christine, a theatre director.

Impressive net worth

Derek Thompson
As one of the longest cast members on a BBC show he has a huge pay slip (Image: PA)

In July 2017, it was revealed that Derek was the BBC’s highest-paid actor, earning between £350,000 and £400,000 over that financial year. His net worth is estimated at a whopping 6.3m by

Music career

It’s not just the medical field where Derek is a pro (Image: PA)

Before becoming an actor, Derek was actually signed to a record label and released multiple music albums with his twin sister, Elaine Johns. They paired up to form as singing duo Elaine and Derek.

They made four albums and 15 EPs together, singing in harmonies, and brought out one album named after themselves on the Parlophone label in 1961. But that wasn’t Derek’s only adventure into the world of music.

He and his sister later created the folk trio Odin’s People with Larry Johns, and the band recorded two singles in 1967. Derek then worked as a stage manager at the Nonentities Theatre in Kidderminster and starred in many early shows at the National Theatre.



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