An organisation representing Welsh nurses wants health and safety chiefs’ help to sort out the lack of protective equipment (PPE) for its members trreating coronavirus patients.

Helen Whyley, director of the Royal College of Nursing Wales, has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asking it to “intervene” in the wrangle after getting no joy from Welsh Government ministers.

The plea comes after Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board boss Mark Polin complained in a national radio interview that stocks of PPE were hard to get and some was of low quality.

Ms Whyley wants the regulatory body to issue instructions to all providers of care, where patients are being treated for or are suspected of COVID-19 infection in Wales.

The nursing boss said she knew there had been an increase in health care staff self-isolating and asked who would care for people in Wales if more staff contracted the infection.

Ms Whyley added: “I have already expressed my concerns to the First Minister and Health Minister for Wales and unfortunately, the problems continue.

“My members are telling me that there is a lack of PPE available to them in hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes, hospices and for community nurses caring for people in their own homes.

“Essential equipment such as face masks, eye protection and hand sanitisers are hard to come by.

“Nursing staff have stepped up to the challenges presented during the COVID-19  crisis.

“Many are coming out of retirement to help with health care in their local area.

“How can we ask these nurses and those currently employed to turn up for work every day without access to basic health and safety equipment in order to do so?”

New PPE guidance was issued by Welsh Government on Thursday to coincide with UK-wide advice.

The new guidance says all health and social care staff working within two metres of “a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient should wear an apron, gloves, fluid repellent surgical mask and eye protection”.

This differs from previous advice, where PPE was only required to be worn for the care of people with symptoms, meaning more staff will now need it more regularly.

In addition, the new guidelines say masks, visors and gowns described as “single-use” will need to be reclassified as for “sessional use” in some instances. This means staff could be asked to wear what were single use items for multiple patients.

The Welsh Government added: “The use of gowns will be extended, particularly when aerosol-generating procedures are taking place.”

The HSE said it was aware of the letter, which had also been sent by the head of the English Royal College of Nursing.

A spokesman for the health and safety body said its “expectations for providing  (PPE) and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for protecting people at work, as set out in HSE guidance” hadn’t changed.

He said: “We expect businesses to make the appropriate arrangements for sourcing PPE and RPE from their usual supplier or alternative suppliers, as necessary.

“We do of course remind business that PPE/RPE is the last line of protection, in addition to using other control measures where they can be effective.”

The spokesman said the HSE had been speaking with the Department for Health and Social Care, health bodies (including Public Health Wales), the NHS and other Government departments “to address the supply chain issues impacting on the availability of PPE and RPE”.

He added: “This has included advice on the infection prevention and control guidance that sets out the appropriate PPE and RPE for different procedures.”