A NEWPORT man whose wife was taken to hospital "in tremendous pain" in the back of a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) because there were no ambulances available, says next time he will take her himself no matter how ill she is.

Valerie Hobbs, 58, waited more than two-and-a-half hours for an ambulance after she was struck down suddenly with vomiting and severe abdominal pains.

Eighty minutes after telephoning for help, an RRV paramedic arrived, and after another 80 minutes he asked Mrs Hobbs' husband Keith for his permission to take her to hospital in the back of his emergency car.

Mrs Hobbs was diagnosed with pancreatitis, a serious condition involving inflammation of the pancreas, the organ which produces digestive juices and hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. After the incident, on December 19, she spent more than three weeks in hospital.

During that period Mr Hobbs said that every day when he visited her, he always saw six or seven ambulances waiting outside A&E at any one time.

"It was awful waiting for help and for an ambulance, although I must stress that the paramedic who came to us was marvellous.

"He was trying to find out when an ambulance would be along, but there just wasn't one available and eventually he asked me if I was OK with him taking her into the Royal Gwent.

"I don't know how we would have managed without him. We are only a few minutes from the hospital and if this was to be repeated, I would take Val in myself.

Looking back, I should have done it that time, but she was in so much pain and you don't expect to have to wait so long."

A WELSH Ambulance Services NHS Trust spokesman said he could not comment on individual cases but the trust is happy to discuss the case with Mr and Mrs Hobbs.

He stressed that December saw exceptional demand for emergency ambulances, with the highest number of calls of any month in the last three years and 4,000 more life-threatening calls than December 2009.

"The huge increase in calls was due to the combination of winter pressures including adverse weather, which led to a lot of injuries as a result of slips and trips and the impact of flu," he said.

"Ambulances were particularly affected by the difficult driving conditions throughout the month. This resulted in some unavoidable delays for which we apologise."