A policeman was knifed in the chest on a routine call to a flat.

PC Stewart Cameron's protective bodywear may have saved his life after he was stabbed with an eight-inch kitchen knife at a basement flat in Brighton.

Only the father of two's stab vest - body armour which is standard issue for Sussex Police officers - deflected the blade away from his heart before it could pierce his chest.

The 30-year-old described the attack as "every police officer's worst nightmare".

He and his colleague, PC Matthew Hollingdale, had been called to support two doctors and a social worker as they assessed the mental health of a 58-year-old man living at a flat in Chichester Place.

When they arrived at 3.30pm on Wednesday the man had barricaded himself inside.

After the two officers forced the door open the man picked up the knife and stabbed PC Cameron through his uniform.

PC Hollingdale pepper-sprayed the man and the pair held the attacker on the floor while they called for back-up.

PC Cameron said: "The man came towards me and I felt an impact just above my heart.

"Myself and a lot of my colleagues have been assaulted in the past. It is a daily occurrence.

"It is every police officer's nightmare having to deal with someone with a bladed weapon in a confined space.

"It is not something you can prepare for. You can't know what is going to happen to you in a situ-ation as it unfolds."

Chief Inspector David Miller, the district commander for central Brighton, praised the two officers for their courage.

He said: "To the best of my mind Stewart and his fellow officers acted entirely appropriately and very bravely.

"I spoke to Stewart immediately afterwards and he seemed very upbeat.

"Clearly the stab vest saved him from some potentially quite serious injury as the knife went into his chest area. Had he not been wearing it the consequences could have been very serious as it was quite a large knife."

He said police officers and social services often work closely together. He added: "It is a real shame it had to happen. I think the officers acted very well."

When the two officers met the doctors and social worker at the house, they were told the man had no history of violence when dealing with medical staff or the police.

PC Cameron, who has worked for Sussex Police for four years, said what then happened was typical of the unpredictable and dangerous situations officers face every day.

He said: "It is often the most routine jobs that can escalate.

"You can never be complacent. You can only deal with the situ-ation as it develops in front of you."

PC Cameron now has a new vest after CID officers seized the one he was wearing on Wednesday for use as evidence.

The 58-year-old man was detained under the Mental Health Act.