AN elderly friend of mine had a fall recently, mid-morning and within half a mile of Hexham hospital. He suffered a broken wrist, bruised ribs and a nasty laceration to his head.

Had this happened a few years ago, I believe an ambulance would have arrived within a few minutes and in less than half an hour he would have been under treatment in the hospital.

Instead, relatives from Newcastle actually arrived before the ambulance and he was eventually taken by that ambulance to Cramlington, passing within a couple of hundred yards of Hexham hospital.

He was brought back by ambulance the following day to Hexham hospital. That involved two round trips each of 62 miles, gallons of fuel, additional paramedics' time and the use of two hospital beds instead of one.

You couldn't make it up!

Surely our own £54m hospital is capable of dealing with such an incident. And this is a regular occurrence.

Virtually every time I travel along the A69 between Hexham and Newcastle, I see a blue light ambulance making the same journey. It cannot be cost effective.