John Pilger: The Dirty War on the NHS

John Pilger investigates the long and often secret campaign to dismantle Britain’s pioneering National Health Service and privatise it off ‘by stealth’. 

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 documentary touches us all and reveals what may be the last battle to preserve the most fundamental human right”.

I was lucky enough to see this documentary on Sunday night as part of a free viewing sponsored by EveryDoctor.  I wish I could say I was shocked, but I knew things were bad, and I had a good idea of how long it had been going on – scared witless would be nearer the mark!

The documentary makes clear, with evidence, that there has been a deliberate policy by our government to undo the NHS, and replace it with healthcare run for profit, which originated under Margaret Thatcher. It also makes it clear that a deliberate strategy of doing this by stealth has been pursued, as politicians were aware that it was very much NOT what the electorate wanted.

The original moves to implement this by the Tories were massively exacerbated by Blair’s New Labour with their PFI deals.  This surely cannot be down to ignorance and lack of grasp of the issues .  It can only be ascribed to allowing the influence of the corporate lobbying organisations ensconced in numerous offices around Westminster to hold sway.

The major escalation of the plans, however, took place after the 2010 election under the Tory/LibDem Coalition Government, and legislation they pushed through in 2012 really removed safeguards and opened up the NHS to profiteering from corporations.  Since then the Tory government has continued the process.

The documentary covers the Tory Party’s consultations with US healthcare companies, not just recently, but over the years, as they decided how to structure healthcare in this country to allow corporations to profit from it whilst hiding that intention from the public.

Also included are many illustrations of how the healthcare system in the US works (or rather fails to work and fails people, even those who thought they had comprehensive medical insurance) and of the damage already done to our healthcare provision in this country by the privatisations which have taken place so far.  This is shocking.

The thing that struck me most was the sheer weight, size of and finance behind the massive corporate lobby which influences, not to say controls, our government.  All MP’s and the media surrounding Westminster MUST be aware of this.  To stick their heads in the sand and collude with the Tories to pretend this covert policy is not happening is a massive dereliction of duty to the public by both Members of Parliament and anyone who calls themselves a journalist. “Knowing which side their bread is buttered” does not cut it as an excuse for allowing this corruption to continue unchallenged in our democracy.

Blair, Brown and Cameron were never really challenged over policy as regards the NHS. Theresa May, hand in hand with Jeremy Hunt, was shepherded through the 2017 general election by a BBC which made sure that  challenges on the subject either never saw the light of day or were dismissed unpursued.  Boris Johnson is a different beast entirely – he prefers to take the bull by the horns and lie shamelessly, blustering his way through any questions about our NHS and relying on what he no doubt sees as his “boyish charm” to get him through with the assistance of the BBC.  

It would be possible to feel sorry for those working in BBC news and current affairs, as they have their creativity stretched to the limit trying to find ways to present Johnson as anything other than an entitled blusterer trying to wing it, if it wasn’t for the fact that we, the public are paying them for what we expect to be unbiased and truthful information.

The powers that be at the BBC have apparently decided that their remit is not only to serve the public interest, but also to decide what the public interest is.  I can only assume that it is because the BBC has been stuffed with Tory stooges that they seem to have made the decision that anything which challenges the Tory government and shows it in a bad light is NOT in the public interest and should not be broadcast, and any information which denigrates those challenging the Tory government, however unreliable or contrived it is, IS in the public interest and should be broadcast without challenge.

The BBC is largely to blame that successive governments have been allowed to get away with a covert strategy of undermining the NHS and increasing the privatisation of it by stealth because of their total failure, as an objective source of news and information, to make us aware of what is happening.  They are not to blame for news from other sources which can contain biased, slanted and inaccurate information, but they are to blame for repeating it uncritically and unchecked to a national audience, much of  which still trusts them far more than they deserve. 

It won’t be enough to put additional money into the NHS – there needs to be legislation to undo the damage done by the Health and Social Care Act, and changes to undo Tory restructuring, if this is not done the only effect that extra money will have will be to make the NHS more attractive to financial predators. 

“The Dirty War on the NHS” is scheduled to be broadcast to the nation on ITV on 17th December, AFTER this week’s General Election. There must be Tory  voters who are very concerned about the deterioration of health provision in this country – were I one of them I would be furious to find that I had made that vote unaware of the way they are stage managing the decline of our NHS.

Only Corbyn’s Labour is willing to stand up to the corporate lobbyists and do what is necessary to restore the NHS to health. 

Christine de-Pulford

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