The Department of Health has vowed to 'galvanise action' to ensure the NHS can meet its 2008 MRSA target.

In a statement about the leaked DoH memo which warns that the NHS is not on course to hit the target, a spokeswoman confirmed that progress was 'slower than anticipated'.

She pointed out that NHS chief executive David Nicholson wrote to trusts recently reminding them of the priority and urging renewed action, while announcing£50m for infection-busting measures last month.

Rates dropped by 11 per cent between the winters of 2003-04 and 2005-06, she said.

She added: 'Progress towards a 50 per cent reduction of MRSA bacteraemia has been slower than anticipated and although numbers of MRSA bloodstream infection are coming down, faster progress is needed to meet the target. We have always said the target is challenging; that is why we set it.

'We are committed to reducing the target identified and will galvanise action to ensure that the NHS can meet these objectives.'