Hospital death rates have dramatically improved in the last two years amid a drive to raise standards in the NHS in Scotland.

Advances in technology and medicine mean survival chances have been steadily rising for years, with mortality figures dropping annually by around 1.4%. But since January 2010 this figure has trebled to 4.2%.

It coincides with the roll-out of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, which uses check lists to ensure precautions are taken to give groups of patients – such as those having surgery – the best survival chances.

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Dr Jason Leitch, who has just been appointed Clinical Director of NHS Scotland after leading the patient safety drive, said: "Scotland is the only country in the world that can demonstrate that improvement to my knowledge."

He said there had been 6640 fewer deaths since 2008, when the initiative began, than expected.

The patient safety programme has tackled infections which occur where lines are inserted to administer fluids and medication. Staff in intensive care units (ICU) have been encouraged to take the same precautions with every patient to stop infections setting in.

Mr Leitch said there had not been a central line infection in a Glasgow ICU for 300 days.

The occurrence of pneumonia among patients on ventilators has also been stamped out at some ICUs in Scotland through the same rigorous approach.