Ellen Pompeo. Picture: Bang Showbiz

TV star Ellen Pompeo has claimed 'Grey's Anatomy' fans will have a big influence over when the show ends.

The 48-year-old actress - who plays the part of Dr Meredith Grey on the hit TV show - previously suggested she may be ready to walk away from the medical drama at the end of the 16th season, but Ellen has now admitted that her own attitude and that of creator Shonda Rhimes can be swayed by fan opinion.

She confessed: "It's something Shonda and I will decide together. I've been doing it a long time and I do get restless, but the fans are just still so passionate about the show."

Asked how they'll know for sure that it's time to quit 'Grey's Anatomy', Ellen confessed: "I think the fans will let us know. When the numbers start to drop and people aren't watching the same, people aren't as passionate about it ... it's time to call it." 

Ellen has starred in the same role since 2005 and is now established as one of the TV industry's best-paid actresses.

The American star loves that the show has inspired people through their own real-life troubles.

She told 'Entertainment Tonight': "When you meet people [who] are going through things in their life and they say the show brings them solace and the show brings them comfort, whether they have cancer, whether they are an abuse victim, whether they're in a marginalised community - even though it is a silly soap opera - to know that you're really touching people and making people feel better, even if it's just because they're crying, it's meaningful.

"As an actor, what we want to do is to tell stories and have those stories reach people."

Ellen insisted she doesn't take her role "for granted".

She said: "We are really, really touching people's lives. I see the effects of it everyday. I hear the stories. We really make a difference in people's lives.

"As an artist, to be able to touch people in a meaningful way, I don't take it for granted, that's for sure. I appreciate it."