The Dirty War on the NHS

Picture by Nicholas Foo

Australian journalist and BAFTA award-winning documentary film maker John Pilger has made a new documentary titled The Dirty War on the NHS. As the title suggests, the documentary is about how the UK government is actively dismantling the National Health Service. An early screening of the documentary along and a Q&A session with John Pilger was held at the Curzon Soho cinema on the 4th of December.

In the documentary, Pilger first talks about how the NHS was founded. Pilger also talks about the purpose of the NHS, which is to give the public the “freedom from fear” of not being able to afford essential medical procedures. The documentary reveals how the government has used a variety of insidious methods to privatise the NHS in order to profit from it. The documentary includes testimonies and concrete evidence of people who were denied life-saving treatment as a result of the inefficiency and cost-cutting measures of privately-run NHS hospitals and ambulance services. The documentary prominently uses the United States as an example of the disastrous and fatal consequences of not having an effective public healthcare service.

The documentary also reveals how the government is underfunding the NHS and its disastrous consequences. The prominent example used is the current UK Health Secretary’s efforts to allow Babylon Health, a private for-profit company, to launch a NHS smartphone self-diagnosis app in order to reduce the number of GPs and nurses. This is despite the fact that Babylon Health said that the app’s diagnoses are “100% safe, but not all the time”.


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During the Q&A session, Pilger declared that there has been a “direct attack on the freedom of speech” as the government has refused to disclose their efforts to privatise and defund the NHS. Pilger also said that the government “hates the health service” and has “a real contempt for it”. In response to a question by an audience member on how to combat the further privatisation of the NHS, Pilger said the best way to do so is to join advocacy groups like the Keep Our NHS Public group. Pilger was heckled by an audience member who called him a “fascist”.


Pilger also said that the best way to prevent the further privatisation and defunding of the NHS is to vote for Labor in the upcoming 2019 General Election.

The Dirty War on the NHS is currently playing in cinemas.

Words, pictures and video by Nicholas Foo

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