SWINDON paramedics have been sworn at, punched and even slashed in the line of duty.

Great Western Ambulance Service Trust (GWAS) last year reported 196 cases of violence, abuse or harassment of its staff across the area it serves – more than one every other night.

Forty-two of the attacks were physical assaults.

GWAS covers Wiltshire, Gloucester-shire and Avon.

Swindon paramedic Matt Baskerville said he has known of incidents where patients have put razor blades between their teeth ready to slash the faces of paramedics as they bend down to see whether patients were breathing.

“When you work in this job for 10 years I truly think you’ve seen it all,” he said.

“There have been incidents where a patient has tucked a razor blade under their bottom lip ready to jump up and injure the paramedic when they’re checking for signs of life.

“The police aren’t the only ones who need stab vests as standard.”

Ambulance practitioner Rachel, who did not wish for give her full name for fear of reprisals, said attacks against lifesavers such as herself were becoming commonplace.

The mum-of-one said that gangs in Swindon have even called 999 just to fight the responder when they arrive at the scene.

“We’re just the lowest of the low in their eyes,” said Rachel.

“I don’t know what makes them think we have the time or the inclination to fight them but only recently we had a call from one gang hell-bent on violence.”

Rachel was referring to an incident in Park North just two weeks ago when a gang of youths dialled 999 claiming that one of them had broken their arm.

“The paramedic arrived and could see that no-one was injured,” said Rachel.

“That’s when they said they just wanted to fight. An hour later they called again, and again we went out to find them just asking for a fight.

“I wish we could ignore it when we know it’s a prank but we can’t take the risk. What would happen the one time one of these kids needed us for real if we weren’t there?”

Rachel has been attacked herself and even filmed on mobile phone cameras while on duty. People just get aggressive.

“I have been hit in the face just for doing my job and I’m not the only one.

“I’ve also been to a guy who collapsed in a club and, when I was trying to treat him, all his mates were filming me. It doesn’t make the job any easier.”

Great Western Ambulance Service boss David Whiting said that emergency workers have the right to work without fear of attack.

The GWAS chief executive said: “Our staff provide a vital service, often in very stressful circumstances. They have a right to perform their duties safely and free from the fear of violence.

“Equally, the public has a duty to respect this and not put our staff at risk of attack. Obstructing, abusing or attacking our crews when they are trying to provide treatment and care – often when lives are at stake – is completely unacceptable.

“We want to make sure our staff are as safe as possible so that they can concentrate on delivering the highest possible standard of patient care. While the number of reported attacks is comparatively low, even one is one too many.

“Anyone who does assault our staff will be pursued rigorously through the courts.”