NHS boards in Scotland are being asked to meet an increased target in the reduction of over-65s catching Clostridium difficile in their hospitals - placing the figure now at 50%.

The “tough” new target is set for March 2011 and is up from the original 30% reduction.

According to Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, the new target can be met, although she admitted that this will “stretch” health boards. She added: “Reducing the misery caused by C diff justifies the effort.”

The health secretary also announced that electronic bed management, which tracks infected patients, is to be used by all NHS boards in Scotland. A trial of the tracking system in Lothian, Fife, Tayside and Grampian health board areas saw a reduction in hospital-acquired infections. It will be introduced comprehensively by the end of this year, at a cost of £1.5 million.

A report carried out on the trials of the tracking system said Scotland has one of the highest rates of hospital infections in Europe. A recent forecast said around one in 10 patients admitted to an acute hospital will catch an infection.

The number of elderly people catching the C diff bug had been nearly halved, according to recent official statistics. The number of people catching the MRSA infection was also down. The last three months of 2009 saw the number of C diff infections in people over the age of 65 fall to its lowest level since they began to be monitored in 2003, to 672 cases. In the same period a total of 119 MRSA infections were recorded, the second lowest number since records began.