Experts believe treatment improvements are starting to have a major impact – particularly the steroid dexamethasone, which prevents the devastating immune system overload that can trigger organ failure.
The drug – commonly used to treat arthritis, severe allergies and asthma – was rolled out across the NHS in June following successful trials by Oxford University, and was expected to have a major impact on the virus pandemic.
“I reckon about half of the improvement in the deaths was probably down to dexamethasone,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.
“It’s really interesting. The thing that got me is that although there is not much difference in the people going in, what really jumped out is the decline in the probability of deaths. For anyone under 70, deaths have nearly halved.
“If you’re under 70 and go into intensive care now, you’ve got a good chance of surviving.”
The team at Icnarc has compared 10,900 patients admitted up to August 31 with 1,233 who entered intensive care on September 1 or later.
In the second wave so far, of the 643 people whose outcomes are known, 14.1 per cent have died and 38 per cent discharged, with 47.9 per cent still receiving care.
Icnarc has warned that the figures are slightly skewed towards those who recover or die early. But at a similar point in the first wave in April, where the outcomes of 690 people were known, 15 per cent had died and just 15 per cent had been discharged, with 70 per cent still needing critical care.