The number of Clostridium difficile cases in NHS hospitals has fallen significantly in the last quarter, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said today.
Latest figures for the potentially fatal bug show that there were 8,683 cases recorded in patients over 65 between April and June - a decrease of 18 per cent compared with the previous quarter between January and March.
Figures for the latest quarter also represent a fall of 38 per cent compared with the same quarter last year, when 13,924 cases were recorded.
Mr Johnson announced that patient waiting times had been reduced to a maximum of 18 weeks after referral from their GP.
He said: "For the first time nationally, the NHS has passed an important milestone.
"The average wait for in-patients is now at its lowest ever level since the NHS was created. This is an extraordinary achievement.
"Twelve years ago it was common for patients to have to wait two years for an operation and in recent years, C diff infections were a significant challenge.
"Achieving our 18-week commitment nationally five months early is great news for patients in England who can now expect much faster access to NHS care and it is immensely rewarding to see such significant reduction in C diff following our investment in a comprehensive package of measures to drive down infections."