CQC finds improvements are still needed in maternity services at Colchester General Hospital

Published: 5 May 2023 Page last updated: 11 May 2023

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has again rated maternity services at Colchester General Hospital, run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, requires improvement, following an inspection in March.

The inspection was prompted by concerns raised by partner organisations and whistleblowing from staff around safety, culture and governance.

 Following this inspection, the overall rating for maternity services has again been rated as requires improvement, after receiving the same rating in 2021. The ratings for being safe and well-led have again been rated as requires improvement. Effective, caring and responsive were not looked at during this inspection therefore remain unrated.

The overall ratings for Colchester General Hospital and East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust both remain unchanged and are rated as requires improvement.

Hazel Roberts, CQC deputy director of operations in the East of England, said:

“When we visited maternity services at Colchester General Hospital, we were disappointed to see some issues found at our last inspection remained unresolved, particularly around staffing and training for medical staff. These staffing issues were affecting the quality of care being given to women, people using services, and their babies.  

“Due to the triage and the day assessment unit being merged, our inspectors found there weren’t enough staff to triage people who called or attended the department in a timely manner. Staff were carrying out too many roles, meaning there was a risk doctors weren’t providing treatment quickly enough to those who needed it.  

“We also saw these low staffing levels and the unstable leadership team affect staff morale. In a recent trust staff survey the women’s and children division, which included maternity, scored lower than the hospital on all nine questions, such as teamwork, staff engagement and morale. 

“Despite finding some issues, we observed staff that were passionate about caring for people, and worked well together.  

“We have told the trust where we expect them to improve and will monitor their progress, including through future inspections, to make sure that people using this service are kept safe.” 

Inspectors found: 

  • People's care and safety was compromised due to the lack of staff. There was a risk people wouldn’t receive care in a timely manner, and not all people using the service received one-to-one care
  • People were not always protected from infection as staff did not always follow best practice
  • Staff did not always feel respected, valued and supported, and senior leadership did not always take immediate action when they raised concerns.


  • The service had a clear strategy which was in line with the trust overall vision, which was created using feedback from staff, people using services, and their loved ones
  • Staff were committed to continually improving the service. For example, the service was launching new pods to provide a safe and comfortable environment for infant feeding
  • Staff worked well together and leaders collaborated with external partners to resolve issues with people’s care.

Contact information

For enquiries about this press release, email regional.comms@cqc.org.uk.

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.