Hospital staff secretly fed pills to patients by hiding medication in their food, the health watchdog said.
In a separate incident, an inspector even had to save a patient choking on food while staff stood nearby, according to a report released yesterday.
The Care Quality Commission issued a rare warning notice to Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust following inspections of the Queen Alexandra Hospital in February and May this year.
The notice means the hospital must act immediately to improve care.
Inspectors saw staff administering medication by concealing it in ice cream or breakfast. They also found some patients were at risk of malnutrition.
The Care Quality Commission issued a rare warning notice to Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust following inspections of the Queen Alexandra Hospital (pictured)
Professor Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said the quality of care at the Queen Alexandra was ‘very poor’.
He warned the CQC would be forced to step in to protect patients if the hospital did not meet a series of conditions, including boosting staffing levels.
He said: ‘Such was the level of our concern that we took enforcement action instructing the trust to implement improvements.
‘We undertook a follow-up inspection in May to look further into the wider culture, governance and leadership.
‘It is a matter of concern that on this return inspection we found the trust had still not effectively got to grips with these issues.
‘The trust is required to send us weekly reports, and we have been working closely with NHS Improvement to ensure that the trust gets the support it obviously needs at the highest level.
‘If the trust fails to meet these conditions, or if there is a continuing failure to provide services that are of sufficient quality, we will take further enforcement action to protect patients who depend on these services.’
Mark Cubbon, who took over as boss of the NHS trust in July, said improvements had been made over the last six months.
He added: ‘We have been working since both inspections and are making sure we are already starting to put in place actions that will improve areas cited in the report.
‘I am confident that we can and will do better and the plans we have in place already are starting to show signs of improvement.
‘We have been recruiting staff in areas where there are shortages and ensuring teams can work together.
‘We have also come up with an improvement plan that will be shared with patients, staff and the public showing what we aim to do.
‘It is very clear and easy to understand and, if we are going a little slower than we planned, we will be able to say what the causes are so people can have confidence in us as a trust and a hospital.’