Guest post: Bringing the Hospital to Boots


This is a guest post from the organisers of this action in London on Sunday 30th January.

Under government plans to reform the NHS, private companies like Boots will be able to bid to provide taxpayer-funded healthcare. This is the same Boots that was bought out by foreign investors, loaded with debt, and moved headquarters to a Swiss tax haven.

So we say why wait? The Big Society will bring the hospital to Boots this Sunday.

So how do we turn a Boots into a hospital? Well, there are a few ways:

How to Dress

We need Doctors – much like the NHS, in fact. Do you have an old lab coat? Can you get your hands on a set of scrubs? Do you still have those surgical gloves and stethoscope from when you used to role play with…. well, you get the picture. We need to staff Boots with a healthy supply of doctors, because we’re also going to have:

Patients. Have you recently had an accident that’s left you covered in blood? If not, you might want to buy some fake blood (available at a reasonable cost from all good costume stores) and pretend. Try to be inventive with the nature of your injuries – consider bringing slings, bandages, fake stick-on wounds, and so on. If you need inspiration, try watching the first ten minutes of an episode of Casualty. The aim here is to create a strong visual impact, so let’s be honest, if you have an old zombie costume somewhere, that can double up as an “accident victim” costume, right..?

Please feel free to think outside the box, and don’t feel that those are the only two roles you can play. Perhaps you could be a politician, walking around and telling the doctors to change how they’re working to suit your ideological objectives. Or maybe a tax-avoiding businessman, using your immorally accumulated wealth to undercut NHS services to grab some market share. Be as inventive as you like!

How to Act

Depending on the specific action you’re attending, the Grand Reveal may vary. One suggestion is that all participants should gather in the target store a few minutes in advance of the start time, trying to blend in as best as possible. At the start of an action, whistles will be blown, and all “patients” will fall to the floor. It’s up to the “doctors” to run around reviving them, whilst perhaps spending some time filling out extra paperwork, or talking to the public about the harm that corporate tax avoidance does to public services.

You might want to congregate in a specific area of the store. In order not to inconvenience people buying medicines, it’s suggested that you do this somewhere like the shampoo aisle, rather than near the pharmacy – try to use your judgement.

Offer to “treat” members of the public who want to get involved. Bring spare bandages, and offer to bandage up anybody who wants to join in. Help people to understand that whether they came to Boots that day to protest, or whether they came to buy toothpaste, they’re all on the same side. Blur the line between “protester” and “consumer”, and show that unlike big businesses, the rest of us really are all in this together.

What to Say

It’s important that the public understand what’s going on – if they leave the store wondering how they accidentally wandered onto the stage of some weird play, then we haven’t reached them. Bring leaflets (or collect them from people who’ve printed in bulk) and hand them out to members of the public. Talk to them about corporate tax avoidance, or about supporting the NHS – talk about what’s important to you, and ask what’s important to them.

In summary: Dress up. Smile. Be friendly toward the public. Above all, have fun.