AFTER suffering back pain, I collapsed on the floor in my bathroom last Tuesday morning. My wife had to phone for an ambulance to take me to Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

I landed badly on the floor, trapping my arm under my body. I was unable to move. The only ambulance available came from Kempston, near Bedford.

It was one of those situations that you think will never happen to you and when it does you wonder just how long it will take for an ambulance to arrive.

It is then that you learn about the sorry state of the ambulance service.

The phone call is directed to a call centre in Norfolk. They then contact an ambulance. If the ones in Huntingdon are out dealing with other emergencies, then the call goes to either Peterborough or, as in my case, Bedfordshire.

Then if the Bedfordshire ones are over here and they need one in Bedfordshire, they call on Luton and so on around the country. The reverse is true that, if they are busy, our local Huntingdon ones are sent to Peterborough or Bedford.

I was also told of the hours the ambulance staff work - 12 hours a day for four continuous days. This is about to be changed with a mixed day and night schedule. It is sad to report that they also fear for their jobs with all the cutbacks.

I am fed up with all the cost-cutting that is coming from Whitehall, especially when lives are at stake and it not until you need the service you realise exactly what has happened.

As a 71-year-old lying in agony, I now have nothing but praise for the people who do this work in all types of weather. They are thoroughly professional and completely reassuring in their patient care. However, the 30 minutes I lay on the floor seemed like a lifetime.

Thank you all, and please keep up the good work.

Cllr COLIN HYAMS

Mayor of Huntingdon

Editor's note: After various X-rays, injections and pain relief tablets Cllr Hyams was released from hospital and has resumed his mayoral duties.