HOSPITAL bosses claim they are winning the war on superbugs.

But the Royal Bolton Hospital is still failing to meet its Government target, with 10 new cases of MRSA recorded between October and December.

Managers hailed an improvement after figures from the Health Protection Agency showed there were 16 cases of the bacteria-resistant infection MRSA between April and September, 2007, five fewer than in the same period in 2006.

The number of Clostridium difficile cases also fell by 21 per cent during the same six months, with 151 cases last year compared to 190 in 2006.

Lesley Doherty, director of nursing at the Royal Bolton Hospital, said: "These are significant decreases but it is an issue that remains high in public concern.

"Infection control is a key priority for the hospital. We are off-target for the year but there has been a big year-on-year improvement."

The latest figures, released at a hospital board meeting on Tuesday, revealed that the 10 outbreaks of MRSA at the hospital between October and December took the total number for the year to 26 - 10 more than the Government target for 2007.

There were 209 outbreaks of Clostridium difficile between April and December last year, down from 279 in 2006 - a reduction of 25 per cent.

Bolton Primary Care Trust had set the hospital a reduction target of 20 per cent, while there was none set by the Government for Clostridium difficile.

Superbugs were linked to the deaths of at least nine people at the Royal Bolton Hospital in the 12 months to April last year.

Earlier this month, the hospital announced new measures to combat MRSA. Carpets in all public areas will be ripped out and replaced with tiles.

And hundreds of chairs, currently used by patients and visitors in public areas, will be replaced.

An audit of staff hygiene is also underway, while a consultant microbiologist and a nurse consultant have been appointed to lead an infection-control team.

Staff must wear coats over their uniforms if travelling to and from work in them.

A two-hour deadline has been fixed for MRSA tests on high-risk patients and all new patients will be screened for the infections from April.