AN UNDER-fire mental health trust has blamed government funding pressures after a fall from a rooftop left one person with "life-changing" injuries.

The Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, the largest mental health trust in the country, was fined £125,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment, and failing to assess risk to patients at Melbury Lodge at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates all NHS trusts, brought the case against the Trust which has repeatedly hit the headlines over its failure to investigate the deaths of hundreds of patients in its care.

Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, said Southern Health failed to take action to prevent patients from gaining access to the low rooftop between 2010 and 2016 on at least seven occasions despite warnings.

It comes after a patient in his 60s, known as Mr AB for legal reasons, and who has "a distinguished history of public service", fell from the rooftop in December 2015 and suffered serious neck injuries.

Mr Greaney said: "Not only was a person responsible for health and safety at the Trust plainly aware of the problem by April 2012, he was proposing that steps be taken to remedy it."

He added that despite Mr AB's fall, the Trust failed to take action and three patients gained access to the rooftop 11 weeks later, with one suffering an arm injury and another managing to escape to France. Works to prevent rooftop access have since been carried out and a reporting procedure has been put in place.

Paul Spencer, defending, said the public spending "squeeze" contributed to its failures to assess the risk and carry out essential works at the hospital.

He said: "It's not possible to open a newspaper without reading, day after day, the pressures that the NHS is under and the mental health service has definitely been the poor cousin of the NHS."

He added that the Trust, which is operating in deficit, was required to make £10.2 million efficiency savings last year and £12.8 million in the current financial year.

In addition to the fine, the Trust was also ordered to pay £36,000 in court costs and a £170 victim surcharge at Basingstoke Magistrates Court.