The number of severely ill Covid-19 patients needing to be hooked up to ventilators has more than halved since the peak of the pandemic in the spring, figures reveal.
Twenty-six per cent of intensive care patients received invasive ventilation up to 24 hours after being admitted to hospital last month.
But this figure was as high as 76 per cent when the pandemic first struck, according to data collated by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.
The data bolsters suggestions that doctors are getting better at treating the disease, with scientific breakthroughs boosting the survival odds of patients.
Medics can now use drugs such as dexamethasone — a steroid that cuts the risk of death in the most critically-ill by up to a third, and remdesivir — which can speed up recovery.
It means they are no longer having to rely on ventilators to treat every severely-ill patient, experts say.
This map shows the North West and Midlands have had the most patients placed on ventilators since September 1. It is from a report by Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre .
The number of patients being given ventilators 24 hours after they were admitted to hospital has fallen from 76 per cent in the spring to 26 per cent last month (Stock)
Survival rates after entering critical care also appear to be improving, official data shows, although the final outcome for many patients is yet to be revealed.
The rate has risen from 61 per cent of those in critical care up to August 31, to 88 per cent of those admitted from September 1, figures show.
But 66 per cent of the 211 patients admitted to hospital last month for whom data was provided remained in intensive care or in hospital when the data was gathered for the report.
The North West and Midlands have seen the most patients admitted to critical care since September 1, at 126 and 93.
They are followed by the North East and Yorkshire, at 90, London, at 73 and the South East and Wales, with 17 each.
Professor of surgery and data science at the University of Edinburgh, Ewen Harrison, told The Times doctors have realised even patients that look 'very sick' can avoid the need for ventilation.
'At the peak of the first wave, which was about April 1, about one in six men and one in ten women (admitted) were (intubated),' he said.
'That dropped off quite quickly - at the beginning of June it was only about one in twenty people.
'If anything has changed, it's a realisation that even when patients look very sick they can potentially get away without having to be ventilated.'
Doctors are reportedly also shifting away from the ventilators involving intubation to less invasive forms of breathing support.
This includes CPAP machines, where a constant flow of air is delivered through a mask ensuring there is enough pressure to keep the lungs open.
Downing Street initially invested heavily in ventilators, spending almost £600million on 30,000 machines — most of which are now tucked away in storage.
It comes after an Oxford University analysis in June found the risk of dying from coronavirus after being hospitalised has plummeted since the peak of the outbreak.
Six per cent of people admitted to hospitals in England with the virus died at the beginning of April.
But the figures show by June 15, just 1.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients were dying of the disease — a