by John Pilger
Britain’s National Health Service, the NHS, was the world’s first universal public health service. Designed to give millions of people “freedom from fear”, the NHS today is under threat of being sold off and converted to a free market model inspired by America’s disastrous health insurance system, which results in the death every year of an estimated 45,000 people. Now President Trump says the NHS is “on the table” in any future trade deal with America. Filmed in Britain and the United States, this timely, compelling 2019 documentary by John Pilger touches us all and reveals what may be the last battle to preserve the most fundamental human right.
The Dirty War on the NHS was first broadcast in Britain on the ITV Network on 17 December, 2019. It was shown following the general election that saw Boris Johnson become prime minister – even though the future of the NHS was a major issue in the campaign.
The remarkable prescience of the film became clear when the COVID pandemic struck, and the NHS, crippled by bed shortages, the starvation of resources and accelerating privatisation, could not cope. This was the film’s warning – a warning also delivered in 2016 when a full ‘drill’ for a pandemic showed the NHS would barely survive such an emergency. The politicians and managers did nothing; the report of the results of the drill was suppressed.
The ideological assault on the world’s first public health service continued at the height of the COVID crisis with inept private firms given lucrative contracts for PPE and mass testing. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, an arch privatiser, announced in August 2020 that in future most GP consultations would be be online. Hancock’s association with the tech company, Babylon Health, is dealt with in The Dirty War.