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Veteran campaigning reporter John Pilger makes no apology for returning to the subject of the National Health Service, and nor should he. The NHS could become Britain’s Gazprom: a gigantic public resource that could so easily be carved up to make corporate oligarchs even richer than they are already.
These are points that have been made by Michael Moore’s Sicko (2007) and Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45 (2013), but Pilger brings us more up to date. He takes us through the familiar history, from the founding of the NHS in 1948, through to the 70s, as a new generation of Thatcherite rightists (such as Oliver Letwin and John Redwood) took on health care with a new objective – privatise by stealth. The complaisant Blair government brought in private finance initiatives, which allowed hospitals to be built with private capital but burdened their governing trusts with heavy debt repayments; and the Cameron/Clegg coalition gave us the 2012 Health and Social Care Act “freeing up providers to innovate” – that is, opening the door to private healthcare companies and a metastasising invasion of bureaucrats and management consultants.
Most worryingly, there is our current health secretary, Matt Hancock, and his questionable enthusiasm for a smartphone self-diagnosis app called Babylon – could it be that GPs and nurses will be phased out for this cost-cutting tech? A Babylon spokesperson tells Pilger its diagnoses are “100% safe, but not all of the time”, which is like the claim made in the comedy Anchorman about a sexy brand of cologne: “Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.”
Pilger makes a persuasive and passionate case that the secret war on the NHS will create more poverty and homelessness, a dishonest media spectacle of squalor and chaos that will in turn be used for specious arguments in favour of “reform”.
There is one point missing from Pilger’s argument, and I can hardly bring myself to type the word: Brexit. Our self-harming abandonment of the EU will leave us more dependent on an American trade deal, and the Trump government makes no secret of its desire for our lucrative healthcare market. A fierce, necessary film.
• The Dirty War on the National Health Service is released in the UK on 29 November.
Source: The Guardian
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