A paramedic who was assaulted while attending a 999 call says the incident has made it difficult for him to judge and trust patients.

The anonymous Great Western Ambulance Service clinician suffered the attack after being called to the home of the patient – a regular user of the 999 service who was sentenced to six months in prison and had previous convictions for assaulting emergency services staff.

The GWAS registered paramedic, who was punched in the chest by the assailant, said: “I always considered I had a pretty good radar for picking up when this sort of situation was developing.

"In nine years of pre-hospital care prior to this, I had not been subjected to physical assault.

“This incident brought home how, on the face of it, the person was extremely unlikely to become violent – but it shows it is not always your drunken, Saturday night individual who is liable to behave like this.

“Following the attack, I am more conscious of the dangers when I attend 999 calls as a solo responder. I have lost faith in my ability to judge situations and be aware of when they might suddenly become more difficult.”

The paramedic was one of 44 GWAS front-line clinicians who were attacked in the year April 2008-March 2009 – and was one of three cases that were brought to court.

The total, compared to 23 assaults for the previous year, is part of figures released by the NHS Security Management Service showing the number of NHS staff nationally who were attacked.

He believes that the attack on him, and the increased number reported in 2008-09, shows a growing threat of violence against front-line ambulance staff. That is why he agreed for his story to be made public.

“It does seem to be happening more often, which is why I think it important that my experience can highlight how frequent this is and how it can occur in almost any situation.”

GWAS chief executive David Whiting said: “It is totally unacceptable for our staff to be subjected to assault – physical or verbal – in the course of their life-saving work.

"While 44 physical assaults, out of more than 233,000 emergency responses our staff attended last year, may be fairly low, it is still 44 too many.

“The experience of our paramedic who has spoken out today shows that it is not just the physical attack that is damaging – it has an ongoing effect on him, his colleagues and family and his confidence in continuing to provide the best care for his patients.

“I am determined that anyone who does attack any member of my staff is subject to the full force of the law.”

Ian Britton, GWAS Local Security Management Specialist, said: “These figures have been publicised as part of NHS Security Awareness Month and highlight the dangers all NHS staff face.

“It is clearly not acceptable that any member of our staff is subjected to any sort of assault. We strongly urge staff to report if it does happen, and we are working to ensure this process is as smooth and straightforward as possible.

“Also, all staff have undergone conflict resolution training; this provides them with the skills and tools to recognise and act on situations, body language and speech that could lead to circumstances where they come under threat.

“While it is fortunate that none of the assaults were physically that serious, there are clearly longer term effects that can have an impact on their professional and home lives.

“The ambulance service nationally faces particular difficulties, as by the nature of the work, staff need to attend patients in highly-charged, difficult or remote locations – often as a solo responder in the first instance. However, this can never be an excuse for assaulting the person who is there to provide vital clinical care.”

Chris Hewett is a GWAS paramedic and also branch spokesman of Unison. He said: “Unison condemns any attack on ambulance staff. We continue to work closely with GWAS to prevent attacks and to support members who are victims of assault.”