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A leaked letter revealed plans to make the covid-19 vaccination compulsory for all staff at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust — which the trust then backtracked on days after sharing.

On Monday, the letter, which was signed by C&W’s CEO Lesley Watts and shared with other leaders in London, stated the trust “will be making the covid vaccination mandatory for all employees”. This would be written into employment contracts, it added.

HSJ understands the letter has not been sent to the trust’s staff, but was discussed and shared with other trust CEOs in the area. They were told it would be sent to C&W’s staff, and were considering adopting the policy in their own organisations.

But, just days after the letter was shared, the trust released a statement insisting: “There is no intention to mandate vaccination of our staff, and no such communication has been sent to our staff.”

HSJ asked the trust why a letter stating otherwise was drafted and shared on Monday, but has not so far received an answer.

Quantifying the problem

We already knew inpatient elective activity took a huge hit this winter due to the pandemic. But, thanks to data published this week, we can now quantify exactly how low activity dipped during February.

The number of patients admitted for routine operations in February was 152,642, according to official NHS data. This is 47 per cent fewer than the 285,918 admitted in February 2020, just before covid hit planned care.

This follows a similar drop in January year-on-year, when the number of people treated fell from 304,888 in 2020 to 139,378 in 2021.

NHS England and Improvement said that, over this two-month period, “around two in five of all patients who have received hospital treatment for covid [throughout the pandemic] were admitted”.

The numbers were, however, significantly higher than last spring, during the first UK wave of covid, when a national moratorium on elective work was put in place. Only 41,121 operations were carried out in April 2020, compared with 280,209 in April 2019.