Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, stressed that many coronavirus patients needing hospital treatment were now younger so did not need critical care.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “It’s all down to vaccines and it’s a fantastic success story.
“The NHS has been delighted to play a part, linking up with the scientists who developed the vaccines, and then ensuring that we get millions of those vaccinations into everybody’s arms.
“Talking to the chief executives that we work with in hospitals, they are really, really clear that they are seeing much lower numbers of patients coming into hospital than they have seen in the previous waves.”
More than 65 million jabs have been administered in the UK and no new Covid-19 deaths were reported on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began, raising hope that lockdown will be fully lifted on June 21.
The milestone may have been down to delays in reporting fatalities during a Bank Holiday weekend.
However, Mr Hopson was clear it reflected a broader trend, with a surge in cases in Bolton not leading to as many hospitalisations and deaths than previous waves.
“I was talking to the chief executive in Bolton last week, and she was saying she had around 50 Covid inpatients over the last few days, compared to 160 last November and about 140 last January/February,” he explained.
“So, we have broken the link – that’s the good news.”
However, he stressed that the B1.617.2 strain which was first identified in India, and is now also been called the Delta mutation, was “very transmisssable and there are still plenty of people who we need to double vaccinate”.
Given this, he emphasised that there was still “some risk” and that another couple of weeks’ data would give an even clearer picture.
Public health chiefs in places like Bolton, he added, say they now appear to have got over the peak of the community infection rates and they are starting to come down.
“There is certainly an expectation that in places like Bolton and Blackburn, they have now in a sense gone through this cycle of having these rapidly increasing community infections and then effectively starting to come back down the other side and the hospitalisation rates have been much lower,” he explained.
Very few people hospitalised had been double jabbed and they also were much younger than in previous waves.
“The good news about that is that that means they are people who need critical care less and you are seeing low levels of death rates,” he said.
These patients were instead being treated on general and acute wards, compared to previous waves when many hospitals had to double or treble critical care capacity to deal with a surge in coronavirus patients.