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Three trust chief executives have told HSJ that they have been denied permission to comment to the national media about the 19 July lifting of covid restrictions.

The NHS England ruling has prevented them from warning that the new freedoms could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS by increasing the number of covid positive patients.

The service is already struggling with record emergency care demand, high staff absence due to clinicians who have come into close contact with a covid positive person having to isolate, and the effort to restore elective activity.

NHSE has been authorising local, and some national, media appearances by senior trust executives and clinicians to stress the importance of vaccination, mask wearing and social distancing after 19 July but doesn’t seem to want them commenting on the government’s decision to remove legal restrictions covering the wearing of masks, social distancing and the size of groups able to gather indoors from Monday.

The media requests to the three CEOs were made in the last few days and all came from leading national media organisations.

One of the chief executives told HSJ: “Apparently it is not for trust chief executives to say that we are worried about the unlocking and changes in guidance decided by politicians.”

Not Freedom Day for everyone

July 19 has been getting all the publicity but new restrictions are coming in before it’s even here, with several hospital trusts imposing conditions on visitors.

Restrictions on visiting patients in hospitals are being re-applied in areas such as Morecambe Bay, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Merseyside, where they had been relaxed in previous months.

Visiting restrictions were re-introduced by South Tyneside and Sunderland Foundation Trust at its adult inpatient wards on Wednesday, 14 July, as covid hospitalisation rates in the area “[are] now doubling week-on-week,” the trust said.

There were more than 80 covid patients at the trust on 13 July, up from just two patients a month previously.

It comes as the government is preparing to release national covid restrictions next week, despite increasing concerns among NHS staff and leaders.