STAFF broke down in tears when they spoke to inspectors at Colchester Hospital about the level of care they were providing to patients, according to a draft report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

An unannounced inspection of older people’s services across six wards at Colchester Hospital took place in November last year, with initial feedback submitted to the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) five days later.

In a letter to the ESNEFT chief executive Nick Hulme, the CQC’s head of hospital inspection outlined the findings from the inspection, before the trust then received a draft report in full last month.

Now, senior figures at Colchester Hospital are in the process of scrutinising a copy of the draft inspection report, and have begun what has been referred to as ‘a process of factual accuracy’, where the CQC’s findings can be reviewed and, if necessary, disputed.

ESNEFT have until Wednesday, January 25, to provide their response to the CQC.

In the meantime, however, documents which are publicly available on the ESNEFT website, provide an insight into the problems which have been created by staff shortages at the trust.

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While the attitude and application of staff at the trust was praised by inspectors, hospital workers told the CQC they were exhausted and worried they were unable to provide the requisite levels of care for patients to keep them safe during their time on the wards.

Staff also told inspectors the working conditions were having an affect on their personal wellbeing, with notes in the CQC report adding workers were sometimes ‘tearful’ when they spoke to officials about the care they were providing for patients.

Extracts from the CQC report, which went before the hospital trust's board today, said: "All wards’ actual staffing levels and skill mix meant staff were often overstretched.

"All staff we spoke with expressed concern about the impact on patient care and personal wellbeing.

"Some staff we spoke with were tearful, reported feeling exhausted and concerned that they were unable to care for patients well enough to keep them safe."

The inspectorate noted positive aspects about the hospital wards which were inspected, however, with the feedback letter stating staff were "welcoming, hardworking, and supportive of each other" when they were on shift.

The report added staff worked together at every level, with patient safety their highest priority when they carried out their work despite being overstretched by demands placed on them.