The NHS is to offer patients radical antibody treatments which could prevent the worst effects of Covid if given within three days.
Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, has asked health services to gear up to provide the antibody cocktails, which in future could keep patients out of hospital.
The drugs were given emergency approval in the United States last year after Donald Trump, former president, claimed they "cured" him after he contracted Covid.
Earlier this year Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said its drugs reduced symptomatic infections among those sharing a household with someone infected with Covid by 100 per cent. It reported 50 per cent lower overall rates of infection.
Trials examining the drugs’ role in preventing severe disease are expected to show positive results shortly, with UK regulators expected to give such treatments the green light this summer.
On Tuesday, Sir Simon said he had asked the NHS to "gear up" to provide the drug to patients, who would need to receive the infusion within three days of becoming infected.
He told the NHS Confederation virtual conference: "We expect that we will begin to see further therapies that will actually treat coronavirus and prevent severe illness and death.
"Today I’m asking the health service to gear up for what are likely to be a new category of such treatments – so-called neutralising monoclonal antibodies – which are potentially going to become available to us within the next several months.”
The cocktail of treatments need to be given by infusion, but community services are being asked to find ways to deliver such care at home, or in clinics close to home, so that more patients can be treated without going to hospital.
"In order to be able to administer them, we’re going to need community services that are able to deliver through regional networks this type of infusion in patients before they are hospitalised – typically within a three-day window from the date of infection,” Sir Simon said.
The University of Oxford has been carrying out trials of Regeneron, which works by binding to a protein on the surface of the virus.
The NHS is gearing up to provide a range of antibody treatments, potentially available to tens of thousands of patients should they be required.
Currently, there are less than 1,000 Covid patients in hospital, making up one per cent of those in hospital beds.
Such drugs create artificial antibodies, so will be targeted at those with a poor antibody response to Covid, including the frail and elderly, and those with weak immune systems, because of other illnesses.