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The Dirty War on the National Health Service

Britain battles to keep its NHS out of corporate hands

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John Pilger’s documentary gives a detailed account of the NHS, gradually turning from the world’s first public health service into a free-market model. As it is being sold off to profit-seeking organizations, it more and more resembles the American insurance-based system, which leaves over 87 million citizens uninsured or not covered properly due to excessive deductibles.

Today, thousands of NHS operations are outsourced to private hospitals with poor and under-equipped facilities, which often causes misdiagnosis and complications. However, the system preserves, as long as it brings profit and keeps dozens of American health-management consultants employed.

The NHS story goes back to the 1940s. After decades of poverty and misery, Britons saw post-WWII as a chance for a better, safer, and happier future. The National Health Service was a part of that dream come true. Introduced on July 5, 1948, it freed people from the fear of being debilitated by illness or burdening their families financially with their health conditions.

However, that feeling of freedom didn’t last long. A document produced under Margaret Thatcher provided that the privatization of the NHS be done surreptitiously, covertly, and slowly. Then there was Tony Blair’s Private Finance Initiative, an accounting trick that burdened hospitals with great debts, depleted many of them or even forced them to close down. Finally, the financial crisis of 2008, which resulted in the austerity policy, imposed severe cuts in health and significantly crippled the social sector.

The author presents The US case as like civilization going backwards, portraying patient dumping, the horrendous practice of discharging patients and leaving them on the streets or in shelters - a procedure now becoming more popular in the UK - inspired by a modernized profit-oriented health system. On the other side is the case of a free pop-up clinic in Wise, Virginia, offering treatment to those who can’t afford healthcare - something that would’ve been natural in Britain under the NHS. Yet, the notion of an accessible free healthcare is still not a given.

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