FIGURES have revealed a 35 per cent reduction in the number of Clostridium Difficile infections in Buckinghamshire hospitals.

The numbers, published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), are from between January and September 2006 and compare to the same period in 2005 where 65 elderly patients died from the deadly stomach bug.

Last year a damning report revealed C diff was the main contributory factor in the death of the 65 patients while they were at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Aylesbury, between 2003 and 2005.

Following this, Buckinghamshire NHS Trust was ordered to ensure all wards were properly cleaned, make infection control a priority and make sure very ill patients were put in appropriate wards.

The HPA figures also revealed that for two years in a row, the number of infections per 1,000 bed days spent in Bucks hospitals were above the national average.

But the trust pointed out that while it had reduced its infection rate, the national average had increased by ten per cent.

Doctor Jean O'Driscoll, the trust's director of infection control, said: "There is no quick solution to tackling C diff infections but we are encouraged that rates at this trust are improving at a time when, nationally, many other trusts are seeing rates increase. We will continue to strive to reduce the number of C diff infections still further."

And despite the drop, C diff is still claiming lives in Bucks hospitals.

Great-grandmother Doreen Lovett, 85, died from the virus in April 2006 after being admitted to Wycombe suffering from a stroke. Doreen, pictured, spent four months in hospital and by the time she died she was suffering from MRSA as well.

Her son Kevin, 57, of Disraeli Crescent, Downley, was surprised when he heard about the reduction in C diff infections. He said: "I know they had to have a massive clean up. It's still out there most certainly, without a doubt. It's more rampant than MRSA, they reckon they have got that under control."

After two months in hospital doctors suggested she be taken off her drip and be allowed to die peacefully. After a week of deliberation Kevin agreed and Doreen died three days later.

He said: "We knew in the end that we couldn't let her suffer any longer, it wasn't getting any better.

"I'm not particularly trying to slam any one individual, you just want to try and highlight what the problems are."

Jon Fisher, a spokesman for the trust, said: "Mrs Lovett had a complex medical history and we are sorry for any death in which a hospital acquired infection was involved."

He added the trust had measures in place to contain infection.