■ The TV presenter and doctor, 40, on his trademark smile, the NHS claps and why lockdown happiness is a onesie and a sofa
You’re campaigning to get kids brushing their teeth…
A lot of people are shocked when they hear having teeth taken out is the commonest reason for five- to nine-year-olds to be admitted to hospital. In kids, dental decay is a huge problem — it’s costing the NHS something like £50 million a year.
Why is it so important now?
Dentists are only able to open if they have social distancing measures in place so it’s still just as important to look after our teeth at home.
You appear to have a great set of teeth yourself!
Smiles are really important — they are often the first thing you will see when you meet someone. It’s a reflection, often, of what a person is feeling, what the person is thinking and how other people react to them, and it can have a huge impact on your self-confidence as well. I brush my teeth twice a day — I learnt my lesson!
What lesson was that?
I had root canal surgery a few years ago. Never again. I’d like to keep my teeth for as long as possible.
You feature on the charity single Lean On Me, raising money for NHS charities. How did you get involved?
Completely by chance! Bill Withers is one of my favourite artists and the lyrics are so pertinent in the NHS right now. Beverley [Knight], Joss [Stone] and Omar, who are on the record, are people I grew up listening to and I’ve idolised them as musicians for so long. I happened to know the brothers-in-law of one of the song’s producers, who got in touch with me and asked if I’d be up for doing it. I couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
Do you have a natural singing voice?
Well, I do sing in an adult choir. I enjoy singing for fun — it’s a great stress-reliever and a good way to meet new people. I’ve made some amazing friends through it and done some incredible things, like singing twice at the Royal Albert Hall.
What do you like to croon along to at home?
I’m a massive Motown fan so Stevie Wonder is my go-to karaoke classic. But I don’t think a pop career will ever beckon for me. I’ll do it for fun and I’ll do it for charity.
You work in A&E. How did the weekly public Clap for Carers make you feel?
Hugely proud. The first time it happened I cried because I’ve never seen anything like that. I still remember last year when the rhetoric was very much anti-immigration. We know huge numbers of NHS staff are immigrants and we now realise the importance of that. I also still remember the rhetoric when the junior doctor strikes happened, when we were saying we have to be really careful because if we hit something like a pandemic then we are going to put added strain on the NHS system and make it unsafe. I remember people at the time saying, ‘You are striking for yourself, you are being selfish.’ But actually we weren’t.
The public have been hugely appreciative of the NHS during this crisis.
I’m hoping people now realise the value of the NHS and why immigration is so important to it. I’m hoping it’s taught us the value of all front-line staff, the value of those people who keep us alive and also those people who are important for our day-to-day living but don’t necessarily get remembered for the jobs that they do. And outside all of that, I hope it’s taught us the value of connection and looking after each other. Because as we’ve been apart and socially distanced, connecting with each other, finding new ways of staying in touch and looking after one another has really come to the forefront. I hope we’re going to remember that when we go back to normal.
What do you do to relax?
I’m a sofa-and-onesie person. I love getting in my grey velour onesie, which is the most comfortable thing I own, on the sofa with a cup of tea and watching a bit of escapism on TV. That is my way of relieving the pressure.
I presume, like everyone else, you watched Tiger King at the start?
Oh my gosh, yes! I binge-watched it. An absolutely brilliant bit of television, quite unbelievable in places — I still can’t believe it’s real. It’s basically become an iconic piece of television. I’m sure there is still more to this story that needs to come out.
You entered Strictly two years ago. Would you go on I’m A Celebrity…?
I’ve always said the jungle would be my worst nightmare. It’s an incredible show but I don’t know how or if I would cope. If I did do something like that it would be as a challenge to myself. I can sleep rough, I can survive the minimal food, but it’s the creepy-crawlies and eating weird stuff that gets me.
■ Dr Ranj is working in collaboration with paediatric dentists to help children have healthy teeth for life with a series of fun and engaging videos on YouTube