SOUTHERN Health NHS Foundation Trust has today been fined £125,000 after a patient fell from the roof of a Hampshire mental health complex.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) brought the prosecution following an incident at Melbury Lodge, a psychiatric unit in Winchester that cares for people suffering from severe mental health problems.

In June the trust admitted failing to provide its patients with safe care and treatment.

Today Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, told Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court that since March 2010 a number of patients detained under the Mental Health Act had climbed on to the roof in a bid to abscond.

The trust's own security review had recommended safety measures including anti-climb guttering, but these improvements had not been made.

In March 2012 one of the patients, named only as Mr AB, climbed on to the roof from the garden, twice slipping and nearly falling before he was restrained and brought down.

Three years later, Mr AB was readmitted to Melbury Lodge after his health deteriorated.

His family were so worried that he might again try to abscond that they asked the staff to keep a close eye on him.

In the early hours of the morning in December 2015 Mr AB again climbed on to the roof. Despite staff attempts to talk him down he fell to the ground. Although he survived the fall, he sustained serious neck injuries.

The court was told that the trust had not taken action to deal with the risks, apparently because there was no money to spend on the remedial work.

Even after the accident three more patients were able to gain access to the roof in February 2016. One of them was also injured.

The trust was fined £125,000 for failing to provide safe care and treatment and putting people at risk of avoidable harm.

It was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £36,000 and a £170 victim surcharge.

Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: "There can be no excuse for this failure by Southern Health to protect their patients from harm.

"Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident – but part of a wider failure to deal with concerns over safety as they arose.

“The trust had failed to make basic improvements to protect the people in its care, despite having been aware of the dangers for years.

"There had been at least seven incidents before this - yet they ignored clear evidence from their own reports on safety and did little to prevent this dreadful accident.

"Even after this event, the trust was slow to take action. It was a false economy which has now cost the trust dearly – and with awful consequences for one man.

“In the circumstances, we had no choice but to prosecute in the criminal courts.

"I hope this case will serve as a warning to any other provider that imagines they can cut corners on safety at the expense of their patients."

Julie Dawes, the trust’s interim chief executive, said: "We should have taken action earlier to make sure that no-one being cared for at Melbury Lodge could access the roof and was not at risk of harm.

"We deeply regret that a patient was seriously injured by falling from the roof in 2015.

"The impact on this individual and their family has been enduring and for this we are truly sorry.

“Significant improvements have been made to Melbury Lodge since 2015, both in response to safety concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission and to make it as welcoming and homely as possible.

“The safety and wellbeing of patients is our top priority, and we are continuing a number of programmes of improvement work to ensure that we can deliver safe and quality care across all Southern Health services.”