You are currently viewing The Dirty War on the National Health Service: John Pilger documentary “goes to the heart of the struggle for democracy today”

The Dirty War on the National Health Service: John Pilger documentary “goes to the heart of the struggle for democracy today”

Written and directed by John Pilger

The Dirty War on the National Health Service, written and directed by the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning journalist and film director John Pilger, has opened in several UK cities. The screenings, some accompanied by question-and-answer sessions with the director, have been sold out.

The film will reach a far wider audience on ITV, but it will only be aired after the election on December 17, because of the political sensitivity of the issue, following a ruling by the television regulatory authority Ofcom.

Pilger’s work is a passionate appeal to working people to oppose the decades-long, covert assault on the National Health Service (NHS) by all three major parties. Even for this writer, whose professional work was bound up with exposing the secret privatisation and balkanization of the NHS, the film proved deeply shocking.

Pilger introduced The Dirty War saying that he had wanted to make it for some time, even though he had already made a couple of films about the NHS. He noted that the war on the NHS had been going on a long time but was at a crucial stage now. The NHS, said Pilger, has become a major issue in the election precisely because it “represents democracy.”

But what was at stake was more than “just” the dismantling by the corporate vultures of a system that was, in principle at least, a comprehensive (from the cradle to the grave) and universal service, free at the point of use. Pilger explains in the film that “Britain’s deadly disease was class. The NHS was not given from on high but won in struggle. It exemplifies what is good in British society. NHS is a deeply democratic institution. The leaflet announcing the NHS to the British people and given to everyone said, ‘Open to all, rich and poor.’”

“But” he said, “the corporations hate the NHS. They and the politicians are carrying out a war against it. We have to fight for it. We should have done so earlier because it touches all our lives. It is the great connector between all of us.

“If the NHS goes, everything else will go.”

Pilger had had to turn to crowdfunding to finance the film. He acknowledges in the credits all the people who had donated.

The Dirty War opens with scenes shot in the US of “patient dumping,” by which patients, discharged from hospital in the middle of the night—one was severely disabled, another had had open heart surgery just nine days earlier—are thrown onto the streets or into some refuge without so much as informing the care workers, much less asking for their consent. It is nothing short of barbaric. This was in order to make way for new patients and additional income.

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