In response to the current Coronavirus pandemic, please see our messages from the Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL:

Wednesday 27th May 2020

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, KCB, OBE, DLAs debate in the country moves on to discuss the complexities of easing lockdown restrictions, I wanted to write to update you on our situation at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Whilst we are saddened and mourn the loss of 10 of our Pensioners to COVID-19, we are encouraged by the recovery of 77 Pensioners who either tested positive for COVID-19 or showed symptoms before testing was available. It is a tribute, not only to their resilience, but also to our medical and care staff, supported by a small team from the Royal Army Medical Corps, who have all worked so hard to deliver the best possible support to those fighting the disease. We have been able to give them a high level of medical, nursing and social care whilst also looking after those who were playing their part in protecting the whole resident community by isolating and social distancing, thereby reducing the burden on our local NHS. We have worked closely with the borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and have appreciated their active support and understanding.

At the same time, we have been acutely aware of the challenges that this has placed on the mental and emotional well being of the Pensioners – some being deprived of the day to day companionship and comradeship that is the hallmark of shared community life, and most others only able to enjoy it at a distance. The activities team have been ingenious and resourceful in contributing to the effort to keep Pensioners fit, entertained, encouraged and enthused.

Like the rest of the country, we are learning more about COVID-19 and how to live with it every day. As well as social distancing, the Hospital is now zoned so that in the event of a suspected infection, we are able to limit its potential to spread, which is in any case controlled by our strict social distancing and cleanliness measures. As supplies have become available, we have ramped up our on-site testing capability so that we can take appropriate action to safeguard both Pensioners and staff, particularly mindful of the threat from asymptomatic carriers.

Life this summer is proving very different. We are missing our usual visitors; the Chelsea Flower Show; Masterpiece; Live at Chelsea. Founder’s Day will be a decidedly homespun, affair – but no less special. We will rightly give credit to the vision of our Founder, Charles the Second, and pay tribute to all those throughout the centuries who have been faithful to his vision to provide a home for those who have given loyal service to our Sovereign and Nation. This year’s private, socially-distanced ceremony will have special poignancy and meaning, as do our regular memorial services for those whose funerals our Pensioners can no longer attend.

We are enormously grateful for the messages of encouragement and support that we have received, particularly through our online Pensioner Pals portal, and for the many kind offers of financial and material support. The Nation is only just beginning to understand the enormous financial burden that it will bear alongside the more immediate and pressing human and emotional costs of this pandemic. We are no different, with the increased costs of providing care and support and loss of event income over this period.

None of us know what life will be like the other side of Coronavirus; it will not be the same and, as we have done over the last 325 years, we will adapt and adjust our plans accordingly. However, the spirit, good humour and indomitable character of the Pensioners continues to inspire.

With my best wishes,
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL
Governor
Royal Hospital Chelsea

Friday 15th May 2020

Last week marked the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, a time of hope and reunion that feels particularly poignant during the current circumstances.  Many of our Chelsea Pensioners can recall their VE Day memories and will be doing so in interviews over the coming days.  Some were recovering in Hospitals from injuries sustained during the war and others were children, eating sweets for the first time and welcoming home fathers that they had not met before.  Most of our Pensioners have risked their lives serving our Nation through war and conflict somewhere in the world, just as our NHS staff and care workers are providing vital and sometimes dangerous service to the Nation here at home during this COVID crisis.  We salute all those working in the health and care sectors at this time and we understand only too well the difficulties that they face. 

I am sad to have to remind you that a number of the Chelsea Pensioners have passed away having become infected with the coronavirus.  Since the 14th of February, when the Royal Hospital Chelsea introduced the first of a graduated series of measures to protect our population of Pensioners and staff, out of a population of 290 Chelsea Pensioners we are very sad to confirm that we have suffered 5 COVID-related deaths here within the Royal Hospital, and a further 5 COVID-19 related deaths of our Pensioners in our local NHS Hospital.

On a brighter note, the protection and support we are giving each day to the Pensioners is paying off. 45 Pensioners have recovered from a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and a further 29 from COVID-19 like symptoms – a total of 74.  Previous protocols advised precautionary self-isolation when testing was unavailable, but we are now able to test all who show symptoms and also all the other Pensioners and staff who live and work in the same accommodation areas, giving us additional confidence that we can provide the best possible level of protection against the disease

We continue to work closely with our local NHS hospital’s Infectious Disease consultants and colleagues in the Defence Medical Services to ensure that we have every possible protective measure in place, and we will continue to review and modify our arrangements in the light of our on-site observations, analysis and clinical advice and the evolving health advice from the Government, the NHS and Public Health England.

At the Royal Hospital we will mark VE Day in a manner appropriate to the current situation and we will reflect on the debt that we owe to those who served the Nation in every capacity during the Second World War in Europe.  Especially, as we are a home for Veterans, we will remember those who were in our Armed Forces, several of whom are living here in the Royal Hospital.  Although we will enjoy some internal, socially-distanced events, it will be against the backdrop of the recent losses we have suffered.  

Meanwhile, whilst we look forward to the chance to relax our current restrictions and see friends and family once again, we remain committed to abiding by the necessary measures to protect each other and our NHS, and we send our best wishes and thanks to all of our friends and supporters. 

With my best wishes for your safety and good health, 

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL

Governor, the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Dear Friends, Families, Supporters and well wishers,

I am sure that we have all been encouraged by the public recognition that is being given to all those working on the front line in the battle against Coronavirus including those working in Care Homes and Social Care.  The message from HM The Queen led the way in recognising all who are working so hard to care for others, and this was reinforced by our Prime Minister’s personal thanks to those in the National Health Service who nursed him back to health.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the continuing, quiet, faithful and devoted service of our staff team here at the Royal Hospital.  Like the rest of the Care Sector, they come from many countries in addition to our own and they operate at every level; housekeepers, chefs, kitchen staff, porters, nurses, specialist care staff and Company Captains.  I am grateful to those who have temporarily left home and family to join the resident staff so we are able to provide an added degree of protection to our most vulnerable Pensioners, and to those who continue to travel to work, either privately or through the arrangements we have put in place to avoid public transport and are taking extra care working to tight social distancing protocols.

I would also like to recognise those who ensure we have the specialist supplies we need or are working behind the scenes at home to ensure that our back-office functions continue and that those on the front line are properly supported.  My thanks to the small but significant team from the serving Army who have also joined us on site; they are extending the range of specialist medical support that we can give to those who are ill, providing relief to our colleagues in the NHS and immediate additional care to Pensioners that need it.

We are working closely with our local NHS hospital’s Infectious Disease consultants and colleagues at the Defence Medial Services to ensure that we have every possible protective measure in place, and we will continue to review and modify our arrangements in the light of our on-site observations, analysis and clinical advice and the evolving health advice from the Government, the NHS and Public Health England.

I am very sad to announce that, whilst we are doing all we can to limit the spread and impact of Coronavirus, we have recently suffered two COVID-related deaths here within the Royal Hospital, and a further two in our local NHS Hospital. Further information about the impact of Coronavirus at the Hospital is available here.

Since our foundation, the Hospital has endeavoured to honour the debt the Nation owes to its Veterans by providing our Pensioners with the highest quality care and support that they rightly deserve.  For those of us on the staff here who have had the honour of serving in the Army alongside men and women like those who reside here at the Royal Hospital, it is an enormous privilege to work together with our colleagues here from every tradition, discipline and expertise to deliver that care in these unprecedented circumstances.

With my best wishes for your safety and good health, 

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL

Governor, the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Friday 3 April 2020

I trust this message finds you and your loved ones well, during these testing times. Life at the Royal Hospital has changed significantly as we have instigated the detailed measures that were planned well in advance to keep both the Chelsea Pensioners and our dedicated staff team safe and healthy. I am pleased to report that the Pensioners have adapted to the constraints on their normal way of life admirably, displaying the stoicism and humour for which they are renowned, and the staff have responded wonderfully to the need for many of them to leave home and work here full-time, and to countless other changes to their normal routines.

On Thursday morning, the Hospital was featured on BBC News channels, on TV and on the Today programme.  Whilst we were a little disappointed that the TV and radio pieces did not get an airing after about 0726 in the morning, they gave a very good insight into how staff and Pensioners alike are rising to the challenge that is affecting us all.  The Pensioners’ wisdom and experience of adversity shone through, as did their famed good humour – and I think we’re all invited to the after party!  I know that not everyone follows the news in these bleak days, and it may have been too early for others, but you can catch up on all of the broadcasts through the links below. 

As our Pensioners have recognised, we are fighting an invisible enemy. Our Veterans were prepared to put their lives on the line to serve their country, and we are all committed to do everything possible to protect them from the ever-present risk of infection, and to care for those who do fall ill to the very best of our abilities. We are extremely grateful for all your support. Thank you.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-52124265/coronavirus-keeping-chelsea-pensioners-safe

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000gxvg  click ‘play’ and move cursor to 1 hr 2

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000gvbq click ‘play’ and move cursor to 1 hr 25

With my best wishes for your safety and good health,

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL

Governor, the Royal Hospital Chelsea

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