ITV has attracted a stellar cast, including Jack Davenport and Joanna Page, to its major new 1960s medical drama Breathless.

Filming has just begun in London on the series that opens in 1961, when abortion is illegal and the contraceptive pill is only just available to married women. Set in and around a gynaecology unit, medicine becomes the stage on which the complex moral codes of early 1960s society are played out.

Jack plays surgeon Otto Powell, who believes he can make a difference to women’s lives, even if that means risking imprisonment under the abortion laws of 1961.

Otto and his wife, Elizabeth (Natasha Little), are the golden couple who all the other characters aspire to emulate, but they hide a secret, an event in their past which could shatter the careful illusion they have created.

Otto’s closest colleague, Dr Charlie Enderbury (Shaun Dingwall), alone knows the truth about Otto and Elizabeth.

Kate Bartlett, executive producer for ITV Studios, said: “Breathless is an exhilarating and charismatic character drama, set against a glamorous London backdrop.  The medical stories and events are there to illuminate and complicate the lives of our key characters and 1961 is a fascinating time in which to explore the changing role of women in society.”