The Kino cinema in East Street hosted a free screening of a documentary about the privatisation of the National Health Service (NHS). Held on October 15 and with other screenings being held across the country throughout October, this is a crowdfunded film called ‘Under the Knife’, directed by Susan Steinberg, Emmy award winning film director and produced by Pamela Kleinot, who has worked on The Guardian and the Daily Mirror. It is produced by Pam K Productions, in partnership with Keep our NHS Public and the Daily Mirror.
The film is a 90 minute feature length documentary outlining the challenges faced by the NHS, from its inception on 5 July 1948 to its threatened existence today. Describing the NHS as “the United Kingdom’s most cherished institution” the film sets out to report on the lies, deceptions, closures and underfunding that have undermined it, particularly since the 1970s and at the behest of both our major political parties, Conservative and Labour, when in power.
With the (possible) imminent arrival of Brexit and the likelihood of a trade deal with the US looming, the importance of the NHS to the population of the UK has never been higher. It suggests that the reforms in Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, 2012, which removed the responsibility of the secretary for state to provide health care for everyone, opened the door, already ajar, to an American type health service, with the NHS services open to the highest bidder.
The film itself, narrated by the actor Alison Steadman, has interviews with patients, journalists, clinicians like Dr Phil Hammond, doctor and comedian, politicians from all parties, including John McDonnell, and expert commentators, intercut with historic footage and live action in the health service today, and with visually extremely funny satirical animation to help with the complex explanations, laying out a distressing story of muddled thinking and actual connivance in the heart of the health policy system.
It is difficult to review this film because of the density of the facts and the complexity of the overall health system. It is riveting viewing, strongly expressed and put together with conviction and passion. I left with the feeling that unless we all become more knowledgeable about the way our present system works, the idealism and pragmatic way it was first envisaged by Bevan will be replaced by the businesses of Branson, the Circle and United Health. Business does not like interference from the state. It is there to make money for its shareholders, not provide good quality care for sick patients, and the recent scandals of private finance initiatives are surely a wake-up call to us all.
Unfortunately, the screenings at Hawkhurst and Rye are over, but there are still the websites and campaigns to get involved in.