There is still a risk of patients “being exposed to poor care” at the Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire, according to the Care Quality Commission.

Its report, published today, said although there had been “some recent positive developments” problems at the hospital run by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust still posed “a current risk to patients of being exposed to poor care”.

“The recruitment and retention of substantive medical and nursing staff remains a challenge,” the report said. The high cost of locum cover to deal with this is cited by the CQC as a reason for the trust’s £14.2m deficit in 2010-11.

While it has taken the trust “considerable time to investigate, respond to and resolve” serious incidents, “learning from these has been minimal”, the report said.

The CQC report comes after the regulator launched an investigation into systems and procedures to “ensure that people are protected against the risk of appropriate or unsafe care and treatment”.

This followed two statutory warning notices on the care and welfare of patients and meeting nutritional needs, concerns from members of the public and the withdrawal of student nurses by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The local primary care trust, strategic health authority and CQC have expressed a series of concerns over waiting times and care quality since 2009. The CQC report said the trust “did not act on all recommendations made in previous external reviews”.

CQC regional director for the East and West Midlands Andrea Gordon said: “Pilgrim Hospital remains under CQC’s scrutiny and we will be carrying out further unannounced inspections and reviewing information about the trust to assess its progress in bringing about real and sustainable improvement in patient care.”

In July the NMC withdrew all 82 nursing and midwifery students in placements at the hospital amid concerns over the learning environment.

A spokeswoman for the NMC said: “This report underlines the concerns we had at the time we requested the removal of students on practice placements at Pilgrim Hospital. We are continuing to work with the trust and universities and are monitoring their progress against the action plan and CQC requirements.

She said the students would only return when the council is “reassured that the practice learning environment will support them to achieve the knowledge and skills needed to become a registered nurse or midwife”.

A statement from the United Lincolnshire Hospitals said: “We have continued to work closely with the CQC to ensure that we provide the very best care to all our patients. We welcome the commission’s conclusion that a large number of actions have already led to significant advances at Pilgrim Hospital…

“However, we recognise there is still more to do. We continue to acknowledge the issues we need to address, and will not rest until all have been resolved.”