A paramedics’ union has accused NHS ambulance service bosses of being “in denial” over the level of danger crews face on the job after one service in Essex decided to phase out the use of stab vests.

The Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel said paramedics are facing “significant” risks every day when treating potentially violent patients and needed protecting accordingly.

The reaction came following news of the East of England Ambulance Service’s decision to phase out the use of stab vests, claiming that the risk to staff was “low to medium”.

APAP chairman Ian Boothman said: “The trust’s decision to withdraw body armour for its staff in future is difficult to reconcile, as more staff have been assaulted in the last year in Essex.

“APAP considers this a retrograde decision … and seems to reflect a national narrative from ambulance trusts that appear to be in denial over the significant risks that 999 personnel face on a daily basis.”

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the decision had been taken after a thorough review, and would be reviewed again early next year.