ARROWE Park Hospital has been given an official warning over bed shortages and lack of staff.

The Care Quality Commission carried out an unannounced inspection in May and found improvements are needed in several areas.

The watchdog's most serious criticism was that beds meant for patients recovering after surgery were being used for general admissions, creating "a potential risk to patients."

They also found wards were not always appropriately staffed.

The CQC has told managers they must provide sufficient numbers of qualified and experienced nurses to ensure patients' needs are met.

The inspection was triggered after concerns were reported to the commission that beds specifically for patients recovering from surgery were being used as part of the hospital's "escalation" procedure when there was a shortage of in-patient beds.

A report published on Friday said this posed a potential risk to patients and although there were systems in place to manage that risk, they were "not robust."

There were periods of under-staffing that had not been addressed promptly resulting in staff being "very time-pressured."

On the night of the inspection, toilet and shower facilities were out of order on a ward.

Maintenance records were checked and it was found that the faults had been reported 13 days earlier. They have since been repaired.

On another ward the CQC found nurses had run out of dressing packs and stationery.

The recovery area had beds for six patients but did not have necessary facilities such as call bells, lockers, toilets or showers.

The medical assessment unit was “cramped” and bays did not have doors on them - meaning “privacy between male and female patients was not always maintained."

Hospital trust chief executive David Allison said: “I would like to reassure the public first and foremost that patient safety and quality of care is paramount to us.

“We are committed to doing the very best for our patients and are confident that we are already addressing the increase we are seeing in demand by recruiting even more frontline nursing staff in preparation for the winter pressure the NHS sees each year.”

In June, NHS regulator Monitor widened the scope of its on-going inquiry into the hospital’s finances - which are heading for a £5.5m overspend - to investigate why  Accident & Emergency waiting time targets were missed for four consecutive quarters.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field, an outspoken critic of the trust’s management, said at the time: "Is Arrowe Park becoming a broken-backed hospital despite the commitment of so many staff?"