|Dear Regimental Association, |
I am writing to you to inform you of the latest situation regarding the COVID-19 virus at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. I am aware that many of your members will have concerns about their comrades at the Hospital and some have expressed those on social media. Please share this information as widely as possible, reassuring your members that our highest priority remains to provide a safe environment for the Chelsea Pensioners, employees and residents of the Royal Hospital.
We took the approach, as soon as we realised what was heading our way, that we should act early, ahead of the rest of the population given the vulnerable nature of our community here. We put measures in place early and our infection numbers suggest that these are having an effect. As the outbreak continues across the UK and the country witnesses an increase in those with Coronavirus symptoms; our vulnerable population is not exempt. We are starting to see a small number of the Chelsea Pensioners fall ill and we are beginning to see our first diagnosed cases of COVID-19. Anyone displaying symptoms is being isolated and cared for and if required medically assessed by our on-site medical team and transferred to the local NHS hospital for higher care. We want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to safeguard and protect all at the Royal Hospital and we want to thank you for your support during this difficult time for us all.
We continue, following expert advice, to put all measures in place to safeguard our community. With so much military experience at our disposal, our strategy has been to dig early and deep, putting in place all measures possible to protect our Pensioners – determined to be as far ahead of the curve as possible.
In brief, have now implemented the following plans:
1. We are proactively managing our response to COVID-19 both in our care and support to the Chelsea Pensioners and are working closely with our local NHS Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster, with whom we have a good relationship
2. A number of Pensioners have tested positive for COVID-19; others are displaying symptoms. They are in isolation and being cared for on an individual basis, including the provision of meals, medical care and social care. We anticipate that this number will grow
3. We planned ahead for this eventuality and currently have sufficient PPE equipment and protocols in place to protect our frontline staff Social distancing is being strictly adhered to by staff and Pensioners
4. We have been grateful for support with planning from the serving Army including a small number of the Royal Army Medical Corps who are assisting us with more specialist care, relieving the load on the local NHS
5. Our Annual Founder’s Day Parade and Governor’s Review have now been cancelled
6. Our newly formed ‘Ministry of Fun’ team is providing a range of support to Pensioners who are spending most of their time in their berths or with activities that maintain strict social distancing
7. Messages of encouragement and support can be sent to Pensioners using our new Pensioner Pals message board on our website
As you will appreciate, this is a very unsettling time at the Hospital, however, the Pensioners and staff have risen to the challenge with stoicism and humour and I remain incredibly proud of how the Royal Hospital ‘family’ continues to pull together. You may not have had a chance to see the BBC news item about life at the Hospital under ‘lockdown’; it is still available here or through a link on our website and brilliantly captures the spirit of the Pensioners and how the Hospital is rising to the challenge.
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 alongside their Regimental comrades, 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.
Please get in touch with your usual contact at the Hospital (preferably via e-mail) if you would like to discuss how your Association can continue its relationship with the Hospital and continue to support your Pensioners in these unprecedented times.
We are extremely grateful for all your support. My best wishes to you and your members.
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw
Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea