A MOTHER has described how her two-year-old son stopped breathing as he was rushed to hospital by car after the family had given up waiting for an ambulance.

Kerry Brown, 27, said she was forced to take her son Max to hospital on Sunday having waited 20 minutes for an ambulance after her toddler swallowed six nicotine replacement mints - equivalent to 15 cigarettes.

The East of England Ambulance Service said it recorded the incident as 'serious but not life-threatening' and said a rapid response vehicle was due.

However, they cancelled it when they heard Miss Brown was taking Max to hospital.

Miss Brown, of Kingston Close, Huntingdon, said the toddler, who had been vomiting, stopped breathing in the car on the way to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon.

She believes the ambulance service put her son's life at risk.

"My brother phoned the ambulance and they said it was on its way. Then Max got a lot worse so we phoned 20 minutes later and they said it would be here in half-an-hour.

"We got him in the car and he was going in and out of consciousness. Then he stopped breathing - I had to blow in his mouth.

"I am disgusted with the ambulance service. If my son had died, I don't know what I would have done."

Max, who has an older half-brother and two older half-sisters, had been watching television at his grandmother's house in The Whaddons when he took the NiQuitin Minis from her purse, thinking they were sweets.

Miss Brown, who had been out of the room, returned to find Max holding the packet.

"All of a sudden he just went really pale, he had no life in him," she said. "He was going blue so we phoned an ambulance."

The ambulance service told Max's uncle, Lee McCool, that it was on its way but after 20 minutes it had still not arrived.

By this time Max was vomiting and losing consciousness, so Mr McCool rang 999 again and said he was told a response vehicle would be another half-an-hour.

The East England Ambulance Service told The Hunts Post that a rapid response vehicle was on its way within the 30-minute target time when the second call was made.

A spokesman said: "We were already en route to beat this target when the caller said she was driving to hospital herself."

He said the call was logged as a "category green two" - serious but not life-threatening. The ambulance service said the incident was never treated as life-threatening.

"It never went to red. People must remember that 999 is designed to give life-threatened patients priority and this incident was correctly diagnosed through a thorough clinical call handling process as not life-threatening."

Max was kept in hospital overnight and is now fully recovered.