Rates of both C difficile and MRSA in hospitals are now at their lowest ever levels, official figures show.

The latest report published today by Health Protection Scotland, for January to March 2011, shows Scotland has exceeded the target of a 50 per cent reduction in C difficile rates for over-65s - delivering a 71 per cent decrease.

The extra target was set by health secretary Nicola Sturgeon in March 2010 after good progress was made on the official target of 30 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Today’s figures clearly show that our strenuous efforts and zero tolerance approach to superbugs are reaping significant rewards.

“NHS boards have not only met the extra C difficile target I set - they have outdone it.

“I would like to congratulate them on all their hard work. There is no room for complacency and everyone must remain vigilant to ensure that case numbers continue to fall.

“Maintaining this progress will be challenging but it is essential that we do just that. Patients need to have confidence that they will receive top quality care in our NHS.”

In the over-65s group, 355 new cases of C difficile were identified, 72 cases less than the previous quarter, and that compares to 640 cases in the same quarter last year - a decrease of 44.5 per cent.

In patients aged 15-64, new cases of C difficile numbered 127, two cases less than the previous quarter, and a significant drop on the 194 cases in the same quarter last year - a decrease of 34.5 per cent.

There were 69 new cases of MRSA, 13 less than the previous quarter. The same quarter of last year saw 117 cases, meaning there has been a decrease of 41 per cent.