'Much brighter days' are within reach thanks to Covid vaccine blitz, says NHS chief

THE head of the NHS has told The Sun “much brighter days” are now within reach thanks to the Covid vaccination blitz.

Sir Simon Stevens said there are just 142 coronavirus patients now in intensive care in England — 30 times fewer than in France and down from 3,700 three months ago.

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The NHS supremo thanked our brilliant Jabs Army for helping to bring a “faster than expected” end to the crisis after clocking up more than 60,000 shifts.

And with social distancing and having to wear masks on the verge of being scrapped next month, Sir Simon said the darkest days of the pandemic are now behind us.

The Sun can also reveal millions of Brits will be given life-saving health checks this autumn alongside their Covid booster jabs.

The aim is to catch killer conditions such as cancer and heart disease earlier, when easier to treat.

And by offering them at churches, mosques and village halls, the NHS hopes to boost outcomes among hard-to-reach communities.

In his first interview since announcing plans to step down, Sir Simon told The Sun: “We’re in a far better place than anybody could have imagined back in the dark days of winter.


“The NHS vaccination campaign is increasingly breaking the link between infections and hospitalisations.

"All the signs are that the vaccines and booster jabs will do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of keeping us all safe.

“So that’s the big game changer. As long as we don’t squander the gains we’ve won, then vaccines will help us to keep one step ahead of the virus, with much brighter days ahead.”

Sir Simon said our record-breaking rollout has put rocket-boosters under our recovery — but warned variants could still set us back.

He added: “If progress continues at our current rate, most experts now say we should see a steady return to normal over the coming months.

“But we’ll all benefit if the whole world can be vaccinated.

“Because the pressures in many other countries are still enormous — for example in India, but also even today in France where there are 30 times more Covid patients in intensive care in French hospitals than there are here in Britain.

“We’re now at under 150 in English ICUs.”

The NHS is also preparing to offer booster jabs against new variants to all over-50s as part of the autumn vaccination blitz.

It means 32million adults will get a third shot to prevent a deadly winter wave.

Sir Simon said patients will also be offered key checks alongside their immunisation.

He added: “In the autumn and winter, when we are likely to offer third Covid booster shots, we’ll also begin offering the option of other health check-ups too.



"Perhaps blood pressure screening, cholesterol, possibly some of the lung cancer screening in parts of the country where there is a high background level of risk.

“If you’d like to, it will be there in those mosques and sports halls and village halls.”

After seven years in charge, Sir Simon plans to step down on July 31 — the target date for every adult to be jabbed against the virus.

On his proudest achievement, he said: “The way the NHS has responded to Covid has been extraordinary and that’s thanks to nurses, doctors, frontline staff across the service — and doing that at the same time as the world’s fastest, most precise vaccination campaign is something our whole country rightly appreciates.”

It comes as Covid cases plummeted to their lowest levels in eight months in April despite the re-opening of shops.

Britain’s biggest infection study found just one in 1,000 had the virus in England last month — a 50 per cent monthly drop.

And with 4.7million people now waiting for a non-urgent op because of Covid delays, an extra £160million is being pumped into the NHS to speed up treatment.

Health bosses want hospitals to use new ways of working — such as “Super Saturday” clinics and one-stop testing centres — to boost capacity by a fifth.

Asked what advice he’d give the next NHS head, Sir Simon said: “My guiding principle has been ‘think like a patient, act like a taxpayer’.

“So remember, our NHS is all about our patients. But as the health service goes about our work, we must always be careful stewards of taxpayers’ money.”


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