Jab bookings for over-18s ‘by the end of the week’

Sir Simon Stevens said that the NHS would use the lockdown delay to try to ‘finish the job’ of the vaccination programme.

Coronavirus
Coronavirus

All adults in England should be able to book their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the week, health leaders have suggested.

Sir Simon Stevens said that the NHS would “finish the job” of the Covid-19 vaccination programme to the “greatest extent possible” over the next four weeks during the extension of lockdown.

He said that just 1% of hospital beds in England are occupied by patients with Covid-19.

And the average age of people in hospital has “flipped” thanks to the vaccination programme – now there are more younger people seeking care who typically have better outcomes.

Meanwhile the NHS has been given orders to “gear up” for new Covid-19 treatments, which the NHS expects to come online in the next few months which will also help to prevent severe illness and death.

These new treatments are expected to be given to people in the community, without the need for hospital treatment, within three days of infection.

Sir Simon told the NHS annual conference: “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 60 million 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.”

HEALTH Coronavirus
PA Graphics

Sir Simon added: “At the moment about 1% 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% of beds occupied by people over 65, 40% (occupied by people) under 65.

“Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30% occupied by people aged 65 and over 70% by younger people whose prospects are much greater.”

On new Covid-19 treatments he added: “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.

“But 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.

“So the logistics and the organisation and applying the full excellence of the sort of networked NHS services locally through integrated care systems, we’re going to need to harness all of that, to be able to benefit from the new monoclonal antibodies.

“We are setting out a set of asks as to how to bring that about in each integrated care system so that as and when the treatments become available to us, they can immediately begin to be deployed.”

It comes after the NHS announced that it would be ploughing significant funds into services for people with long Covid, including 15 new hubs set up to help children and young people affected by ongoing symptoms.

Sir Simon said that the NHS was also making a “very significant” rebound in tackling the list of patients waiting to start care, adding that the health service had successfully tackled big waits in the early 2000s.

“We’ve seen a very significant rebound in the waiting list activity – the elective activity that hospitals are able to deliver is already back to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

“We have seen the median wait for routine care fall from just under 20 weeks last July to around 11 weeks now, but we’re going to need further progress on that over the course of the next year and beyond.

“And treatment rates for cancer are also now back to their usual levels and above – in fact, with 19 out of 20 people starting their treatment within a month according to the figures just published a few days ago.

“But this is going to be a huge part of the agenda for the next year or two.

“And the truth is, in the health service we know how to do this, we have done this successfully once before in the big effort to take waits out of the system, in the early 2000s.

“Obviously these are different circumstances, but when the health service is given the backing and gets the tools it needs, we can deliver against what is required.”

Asked what further steps could be taken to look after NHS staff, Sir Simon said that a number of initiatives had been taken up over the last year which should be “double down and expanded on”, including enhanced mental and occupational health support; “fair development and promotion opportunities tackling some of the racism that exists across the health workforce” and “staff in the health service need fair and appropriate pay”.

Meanwhile, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS confederation, told the conference that the pandemic “turned the cracks in our health and social care systems into dangerous fault lines”.

He added: “The NHS and social care system went into the pandemic with these worsening structural challenges – they are not new. But we are emerging from the pandemic with many of them having deepened.

“Now, we must commit to building a truly resilient health and care system.”

Mr Taylor continued: “Without reform and funding we cannot recover, let alone rebuild. But that truth should not reduce us to a narrative in which the NHS is always the supplicant holding out a bottomless begging bowl to the Government and taxpayer.”

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