Concerns have been raised over the care of patients at Colchester General Hospital after a surprise inspection revealed capacity problems and safeguarding issues.

The results of the inspection exposed problems which included patients being inappropriately restrained and sedated without consent. The report also found that ‘do not resuscitate’ notices were being disregarded.

The hospital has declared a major incident with patients being told to “only come to A&E if they had a serious or life-threatening condition.”

The current situation has been described by the trust's interim chief executive as a ‘difficult time’, and comes a year after the hospital was placed under special measures. Peter Wilson, acting chairman of the hospital trust, has now announced a review of demand, capacity, staffing levels and discharge processes at the hospital.

Corrina Mottram, clinical negligence and serious injury solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Chelmsford office said: “The findings of the CQC inspection raise serious concerns about the care of patients at Colchester General Hospital.

“The hospital was placed under special measures a year ago, and the latest findings reveal a desperate shortage of staff, and a vastly overstretched workforce, unable to successfully fulfil the needs of a growing patient base.

“These instances of gross understaffing can lead to serious cases of medical negligence, as we have seen with the mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal. It is high-time that the government acknowledges the serious problems facing hospitals across England and properly invests in the NHS as its staff and services are close to breaking point.”