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Portsmouth hospital's 'very poor care'.

Hospital staff secretly fed pills to patients by hiding them in their meals and in ice cream, health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found.

Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth was given a formal warning by the CQC for its "very poor care.”

In a separate incident, inspectors had to intervene and help a choking patient when two staff members failed to act.

Inspectors rated medical care at the hospital as "inadequate".

They saw one patient being fed antibiotics in ice cream "covertly, without the patient's knowledge.”

Two others had medicines secretly mixed with their meals, with no records to support the practice, which is against medical guidelines.

The CQC report raised concerns about two babies being sent home despite having "bruising of unknown origin.”

During their visit, inspectors learned of two mental health patients absconding from a unit that treated vulnerable teenagers alongside suicidal adults.

The CQC said previous problems with ambulances queuing to deliver patients had improved thanks to a new rapid assessment process in the emergency department.

The report rated safety standards in urgent and emergency care "inadequate" while the service overall "required improvement.”

CQC chief inspector of hospitals, Prof Ted Baker, said: "The quality of care on the medical wards was very poor, especially for the most vulnerable patients."

He said a follow-up inspection revealed the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust had failed to deal with the inspectors' concerns.

The CQC has ordered the trust to send weekly progress reports and warned further enforcement action may be necessary to protect patients.

Previously, the CQC had reported "sustained improvements" in A&E, which it had described as "chaotic.

Trust chief executive, Mark Cubbon, said: "The report makes for difficult reading and we have fallen short in some key areas, but I am confident that we can, and will, do better."