A Hawke's Bay ambulance officer was spat on, kicked and bitten while taking a sick woman to hospital, the latest incident in an increasing trend of violence towards officers says St John.

An ambulance was sent to assist a woman who had collapsed with a medical condition in the Hastings suburb of Mahora last night, St John central district operations manager Stephen Smith said today.

On the way to hospital, while being attended to by a female officer, the woman became upset and aggressive in the back of the ambulance.

The male officer, in his 50s, got into the back to help when the woman spat in his face, bit him on the arm and kicked him in the leg, Mr Smith said.

She got out of the ambulance and was later picked up by the police and taken to hospital for her treatment.

Mr Smith said the officer, who had many years experience as an ambulance officer, would probably be off work until next week.

"This happened extremely quickly and with no provocation. I think it came as a bit of shock."

All staff were trained in personal safety and St John would investigate the incident to try to prevent similar incidents in the future, he said.

Mr Smith said ambulance officers were subjected to physical attacks in the Hawke's Bay once every four or six months.

St John operations director Tony Blaber said ambulance officers made allowances for patient and bystander emotions, which could run high at an emergency incident. "However, assaults of any kind are unacceptable."

National figures showed that in the 2008/09 financial year there were 43 assaults reported against St John ambulance officers around the country.

Most of these did not involve weapons; those that did were generally threats and the crews removed themselves from danger.

Ambulance officers do not enter or re-enter scenes of violence until police declare the scene safe, he said.

However, the number of assaults on officers appears to be increasing.

In 2003/04 there were 16 assaults, rising to 19, 28, 27 and 51 in subsequent years.

Mr Blaber said St John believed there was an increase because of improved reporting of the attacks and a "societal change where some members of the public - usually bystanders such as family members - are more likely to assault ambulance officers than in the past".

St John regularly reviewed the need for stab resistant vests for ambulance officers but had decided not to introduce them at this stage.

St John continually trained its staff how to react to dangerous situations so as to protect their safety.

A 35-year-old Hastings woman will appear in Hastings District Court next week connection with last night's incident.

- NZPA