Thousands of lives have been saved by increased intensive care funding and the introduction of treatment guidelines, research suggests.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said extra beds, more outreach services and the adoption of clinical standards had cut the intensive care mortality rate by 11.3 per cent.

The changes were adopted after a £300m investment by the Department of Health in 2000, designed to increase the number of hospital beds by 35 per cent.

Study leader Andrew Hutchings said: “This attempt at a nationwide evaluation of policies pursued since the publication of the NHS Plan in 2000 suggests that the interventions represent a highly cost effective use of resources.

“Whatever the reasons for the improvements, considerable additional expenditure on critical care combined with an explicit centrally driven programme of modernisation has resulted in dramatic improvements in outcomes.”

Health minister Mike O’Brien added: “This piece of research shows how far we have come in improving critical care services across the NHS.”

The study was published on the British Medical Journal website.