Donning scrubs, white lab coats and picket signs, doctors and healthcare professionals rallied with anti-poverty activists today outside of Boots the Chemists’ flagship store to publicise how tax avoidance is sickening the NHS and risking the public’s health.
The Government has made sweeping cuts to the NHS since it came into power in 2010, blaming budgetary shortfalls. Meanwhile, complex tax avoidance schemes cost HM Treasury an estimated £32 billion to £120 billion each year, a significant portion of which is attributable to avoidance of the corporation tax.
The high street chemists’ parent company, Alliance Boots, has avoided at least £1.21 billion in payments to the Treasury over the past seven years – missing revenue which could have paid for nearly two and a half years of prescription fees for the whole of England, or the annual starting salary for 85,000 NHS nurses.
This is why Medact joined other activists to protest on Oxford Street today. They slapped a giant mock public health notice on the store’s exterior, warning customers that unethical, aggressive tax regimes such those used by Boots are eroding the tax base and triggering increasingly vicious cuts to critical NHS services. Doctors gave passersby “prescriptions” for a restored NHS: strengthening tax laws would make companies like Boots pay its fair share.
With music and chants, the event was peaceful and light-hearted for the 25 or so participants. But the event made an impression on the general public with some would-be cutomers actually changing their minds about shopping at Boots.
The rally, sponsored by MedAct, War on Want, Unite and Change to Win, coincided with a launch of a petition from healthcare providers from across the country, calling on the government to investigate Alliance Boots’ tax strategy and for greater transparency in public contracts.
Sign the petition now to help change the rules on tax abuse.
More on Boots:
Boots Loots – What has happened to our friendly high street pharmacist?
Darren Johnson/iDJ Photography