Just one per cent of hospital beds are occupied by Covid patients, the head of the NHS has said, compared with a third at the peak of the pandemic.
Sir Simon Stevens said hospitals were in a “much better position” than previously, with far fewer patients, who tended to be younger and more likely to recover.
NHS statistics show Covid patients fill just 993 of 96,000 hospital beds in England. At the peak of the second wave this January, there were more than 34,000 Covid cases in hospital, filling one in three beds.
Sir Simon told the NHS Confederation annual conference on Tuesday that the majority of Covid cases now in hospital were younger than previously was the case, with “much greater” chances of recovery.
He said the NHS was currently in a “much better position now than we were this time last year” because of the “protective wall” provided by vaccinations.
This time last year, there were around 4,000 Covid patients in hospital in England.
Daily admissions to critical care
Sir Simon told the virtual conference: "At the moment about one per cent of hospital beds in England are occupied by patients with a Covid diagnosis and the age distribution has really flipped as a result of vaccination.
"Back in January, it was 60/40 – 60 per cent of beds occupied by people over 65, 40 per cent [occupied by people] under 65.
"Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30 per cent occupied by people aged 65 and over 70 per cent by younger people whose prospects are much greater."
The NHS chief said that bookings for vaccinations would open to everyone over the age of 18 by the end of this week.
And he said that in the coming weeks, the NHS would bring forward jabs for up to 4.5million people in their 40s, who can now receive a second dose after eight weeks rather than 12.
Sir Simon said there are also 1.3 million people in their 50s still due second jabs.
He said the NHS would "finish the job" of the Covid-19 vaccination programme to the "greatest extent possible" over the next four weeks.
Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
The Government has brought forward the target for all adults to be offered the jab by July 19, rather than July 31, and said two thirds of all adults should get a second dose by the same date.
Sir Simon said: "It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the Covid vaccination programme, which has been a historic signature achievement in terms of the effectiveness of delivering by the NHS – over 60million doses now administered.
"By July 19 we aim to have offered perhaps two thirds of adults across the country double jabs.
"And we’re making great strides also in extending the offer to all adults – today people aged 23 and 24 are able to vaccinate through the National Booking Service.
"I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the National Booking Service to all adults age 18 and above.
"Of course, vaccine supply continues to be constrained, so we’re pacing ourselves at precisely the rate of which we’re getting that extra vaccine supply between now and July 19," he said.