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

Friday 25th September 2020

Gary Lashko - Chief Executive of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
It has been some time since we last updated you with the situation at the Royal Hospital. Like the rest of the country, we have been making the most of the good weather and easing of COVID restrictions over the summer to reinvent safe, socially distanced community life at the Royal Hospital. I hope that you have been able to follow some of those activities via our social media channels and on our website. The lower level of infection in the country at large during summer, and strict adherence to our own hygiene and social distancing protocols have kept us largely infection free over that time with no serious incidence to report.

The summer respite, though, appears to have been short lived. Since the Government announcement on Tuesday we have had to consider what rising infection figures in London and the UK mean for how we conduct our day-to-day business. As ever, our upmost priority remains to keep our vulnerable population of Chelsea Pensioners as safe as possible. Currently, we have no signs of the infection within the gates, but we are all too aware of how quickly this can change and the potential consequences this can incur.  

We have been following the course of the pandemic over the last 6 months as a community and staying ahead of the curve in the early days; interpreting guidelines and taking measures to give the best protection to our Pensioners and staff. We have also honoured those we have lost, supported others through recovery, and found creative and imaginative new ways to maintain community life. 

Our approach to the Covid-19 second wave will be guided by the following principles:  

  • Protecting the lives, health and wellbeing of our Pensioners, our staff and other residents of the Royal Hospital;
  • Obeying the law and following government guidance; and
  • Testing Pensioners and Pensioner-facing staff regularly. 

In contrast to our approach to the first wave, we hope to continue as much of our community life as is possible within the gates. We will be modifying our approach to apply the learnings we have gleaned over the last few months, while prioritising safety and our Pensioners’ mental and physical health.

The factor that has allowed us to even consider this, is that we now have access to regular, individual testing for Covid-19. This enables us to identify and immediately quarantine anyone who is infected, whether they are showing symptoms or not. Our testing programme is robust, and by supplementing NHS provision with some privately sourced testing, we can regularly test front-line staff and Pensioners which ensures we have an accurate picture within our close-knit community. If we do detect the virus within our population, we revert to our strict protocols and tackle any instances immediately.  

As per the Government guidelines, we continue to ensure that any staff member who can work from home does so. The site also remains closed to the public, apart from the South Grounds and Burton Court, which are unfrequented by Pensioners. These areas have remained open for public and member access throughout. We also have a strict rota system in place for friends and families to visit their loved ones within socially distanced settings.

Like the rest of the country, we have taken learnings from the first wave and are now in a position to act in the most agile way possible, which gives us a level of assurance and comfort as we sadly head towards a second wave. Life in the Army is all about teamwork - demonstrating self-discipline and accepting group tasks and restrictions to achieve a shared objective over individual ones. While this is familiar to our Pensioners, it has now become a rallying cry for the whole country!

Despite these challenges, the Pensioners’ morale remains high. Their spirits have been lifted with the few (socially distanced) events we were able to hold on the South Grounds, including being part of the audience for the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. They do, however, miss their public duties and are patiently waiting for the time when it is safe for them to represent the Veteran community once more outside the gates. All being well, you will see a selected few of them on screen as part of the national Remembrance commemorations in November.  

My thanks to all those who have sent greetings to the Pensioners, or who have made a donation either towards our new Activity Centre, or to help us meet the additional costs we have incurred to keep the Pensioners safe and well. Your gifts and good wishes are deeply valued and appreciated - knowing we have the support of so many people help to strengthen our confidence at a time of greater uncertainty.

I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and we all look forward to welcoming you back in person to the Royal Hospital as soon as ­the situation allows.

With best wishes,  

Gary Lashko  
CEO, the Royal Hospital Chelsea  

Wednesday 8th July 2020

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, KCB, OBE, DL
As the country moves towards the easing of lockdown, with more public spaces opening up, I wanted to update you on the situation at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Firstly, we are greatly encouraged that - at the time of writing - we now have just one positive case of Coronavirus within the gates of the Royal Hospital and he is making a good recovery, having picked up the infection on a necessary outpatient appointment. I am also pleased to report that the member of staff who has been in hospital in a serious condition with COVID-19 for a number of weeks has shown some improvement in his condition. Whilst he remains very ill and is not free from the risk of a reverse, we are delighted with this news and continue to think of him as he starts out on the road to recovery.

I would like to take this opportunity to praise all our dedicated staff who have worked so hard to care for the Pensioners under unprecedented pressure and within the parameters of many additional safety protocols. It has been uplifting to see such a talented pool of people pulling together across different departments, all with the common goals of keeping the Chelsea Pensioners safe and safeguarding the Hospital for future generations of Veterans.

Like many other organisations we have been considering how we can return to some form of normality whilst taking care of the health and wellbeing of those under our care, whilst COVID-19 remains in circulation in the community outside our gates. Accordingly, Pensioners are now able to enjoy a much-anticipated pint of beer from the Chelsea Pensioners Club, which must be drunk al fresco and socially distanced, and those that wish are now able to visit shops in the neighbourhood, subject to a number of precautions including weekly swab tests for COVID-19. As the need for continued restrictions in Leicester remind us, we are not out of the woods yet.

We have learned much over the last weeks. The Pensioner currently recovering in isolation, picked up COVID-19 during a visit to hospital for other treatment. Our robust on-site ‘test, trace and isolate’ system, meant that we were able to react to the infection immediately and contain it, identifying and isolating others as a precaution and testing any possible contacts. Front line care staff and those who work in our Infirmary are being tested twice a week. Pensioners, as necessary and through participation in a research project at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, and frontline staff have received antibody tests. With extensive use of PPE, strict hygiene measures, zoning and continued maintenance of 2m social distancing on site, and by monitoring of local infection incidence, our protections on-site are robust, with the potential to be strengthened further or scaled up should risk levels increase locally.

Spirits at the Royal Hospital - although tinged with sadness for the loss of our comrades – remain high. The Pensioners are a resilient and resourceful group who have adapted to lockdown circumstances with good humour and ingenuity. Maintaining and enhancing mental and physical wellbeing remains one of our core objectives and the Activities Team have worked tirelessly throughout lockdown to ensure Pensioners have access to a wide variety of stimulating and enjoyable pastimes, ranging from Tai-Chi to photography, and even our own onsite radio station! We look forward to extending the range even further, and inviting other Veterans to join us, when we open our new Activities Centre in the future.

The Royal Hospital is known for its traditions but since our inception we have always been on the front foot of innovation. During this period of crisis, we have continued to adapt and innovate our practices, encouraging Pensioners to keep in touch with loved ones using the latest technology and even getting some of the Pensioners involved in the first ‘virtual’ Royal parade, capitalising on the presence of the King’s Royal Hussars on Ceremonial duties in London, during which HRH The Princess Royal reviewed Pensioners and addressed the parade on-line. All activities on-site were of course strictly socially distanced and conducted in accordance with Government guidelines. We have also started new online ventures with other Military organisations and have piloted an ‘online breakfast club’ to connect with other older Veterans. We are continuing to explore other ways in which we support Veterans outside the RHC who are living alone or being cared for by their families.

Sadly it may be some time before you once again see Pensioners in their famous Scarlet coats at outside events representing the Veteran community, as they usually do so marvellously, but the Pensioners are cheered that they can now take leave to see loved ones in accordance with our strict safely protocols, which include a period of isolation on return for the safety of their comrades.

For now, with sadness, the Hospital gates remain closed to the public. However, we all look forward to welcoming our friends and supporters back as soon as it safe to do so.

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

Wednesday 27th May 2020

As 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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News

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Goodbye to Matron Susan Williams
Goodbye to our much-loved Matron, Susan Williams

The Royal Hospital’s Matron and Registered Manager, Susan Williams, has been a key part of our community for 10 years, so both Pensioners and staff are very sad to say goodbye to her.

Pensioner Charmaine Coleman skydiving tandem in Scarlets
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To mark the International Day of Charity on 5 September we would like to highlight just how important and valued fundraisers are to the Royal Hospital. We are so grateful to all the kind people who have devoted their time, effort and talent to help us.

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