Hospitals in Covid hotspots are seeing a “significantly” lower death rate among people admitted for treatment and are coping with current levels of infection, the head of NHS Providers has said.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of the body which represents NHS trusts, said there was a degree of confidence that vaccines appear to have “broken” the link between infections and the “very high level of hospitalisations and mortality we’ve seen in previous waves”.
He told Times Radio: “And if, and it is a big if, if Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if other areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections.
“It’s important not to just focus on the raw numbers here… you also do need to look at who’s being admitted into hospital and how clinically vulnerable and what level of acuity they’ve got.
“What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate which is, you know, borne out by the figures.
“So it’s not just the numbers of people who are coming in, it’s actually the level of harm and clinical risk.”
An increased package of support is being provided to Greater Manchester and Lancashire, similar to that seen in Bolton, where case numbers of the Delta variant first identified in India have been relatively high.
Mr Hopson said any decision on easing remaining lockdown restrictions in England on June 21 was finely balanced, adding that if “incredibly busy” hospitals see even a small rise in Covid patients, they could have to “make some trade-offs between Covid and non-Covid care”.
He added that “we don’t quite know where we are in terms of, are we at the beginning of an exponential rise or not?”.
But he said the “picture on mortality seems really pretty clear, that we’ve had less than 15 people a day dying from Covid for nearly about seven weeks now and that compares to well over 1,000 a day in the January peak and 800 a day in April last year”.
Elsewhere, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said coronavirus cases are “clearly rising” and that Boris Johnson is reviewing a range of data before making a final decision on lifting restrictions on June 21.
He told Sky News: “We created this five-week period between the stages of the road map and that has actually proved invaluable on this occasion, because it’s a finely balanced decision.
“We need to see that data of cases, which are clearly rising, but the link to hospitalisations and ultimately to death.
“So the Prime Minister is reviewing that ahead of the decision point, which is going to be June 14 – at that point of course he will let everybody know what the ultimate decision is.”
He said there were no plans to return to last year’s regional tiered approach to coronavirus restrictions, adding that the Government hopes to replicate the targeted action seen in Bolton.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We don’t have any plan to return to the regional or the tiered approach that we saw last autumn.
“What we want to do is provide as much support as we possibly can to a local community and to work as closely as we can with the local leaders.
“We have seen in Bolton that that approach has worked. It did require a lot of effort and Bolton Council has been brilliant, the NHS there, local people above all have been extremely helpful and effective in combating it.
“So that approach, of going door to door with testing, doing the surge testing, doing the vaccine buses, getting everybody out to be vaccinated, has worked there.
“If we can replicate that in other places where you see similarly concerning rises in the number of cases, then that is the best way forward.”