As the coronavirus hit the UK, residents went to their windows and doorsteps to applaud the sacrifices and dedication of healthcare workers in fighting the pandemic in orchestrated «Clap For Our Carers» gestures. But the shows of appreciation were bittersweet, even controversial for many, who realised that true support and valuing of the National Health Service (NHS) has to be evidenced not just in a PR-friendly spectacle of public emotion, but the adequate resourcing and funding that has been lacking so desperately. And that is assured not by claps but political action and votes, as the current Tory government flirts ever closer to a catastrophic sell-off, and a reformation of Britain’s health system more in line with the American model. COVID-19 has exposed stark global inequalities and the shortcomings of capitalism like never before, and the NHS is no exception, as a system already on its knees due to decades of stealth privatisation and pressure toward its full dismantling struggles to cope with the crisis in a nation on-track to record, uncoincidentally, the highest death toll in Europe from the virus.
How heartbreaking and fitting, then, to watch John Pilger’s The Dirty War on the NHS during these strange and frightening days. The veteran journalist and documentarian, an unflinching leftist advocate of social justice, made the film prior to the global health crisis, which has brought the life-or-death dependence of the population on effective healthcare provision into devastating and, at times, utterly tragic, clarity.
A basic right
Pilger sets out the way in which the publicly funded NHS has been dragged ever-further from its founding principle that good healthcare is a basic right of all, regardless of wealth, in the decades since its founding in 1948 as the world’s first health service completely free at the …
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