FIREFIGHTERS evacuated 30 patients after a blaze broke out at mental health hospital in Southampton last night.

More than 40 firefighters from across the city tackled the fire at Antelope House in the grounds of the Royal South Hants Hospital in the St Mary’s area.

Four casualties had to be led to safety – one of them a woman – who was then taken to hospital by ambulance.

Fire crews using breathing apparatus and jets tackled the flames as the fire broke out on a ward.

This morning the cause of the blaze was not known and was the subject of a major investigation.

The drama unfolded at 7.11pm when a 999 call was made from the Brintons Road hospital to raise the alarm.

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said four people were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

The condition of the woman was not known last night.

The fire was put out by 8.23pm and left five per cent of the ward damaged and a much larger area damaged by smoke.

Station manager Rob Cole said: “With assistance from the hospital staff, we were able to move patients a safe distance from the fire.

“The fire was relatively small but using fans we were able to contain the flames and smoke within the ward and prevent any spread to the rest of the floor or building.

“There was a small amount of fire damage to the affected ward and smoke damage to around a quarter of it. The fast work of the crews prevented any further damage to the rest of the hospital.”

A spokeswoman for South Central Ambulance Service confirmed a female patient had been taken to Southampton General Hospital.

It is the latest incident to strike the controversy hit mental health unit, formerly known as the Department of Psychiatry.

In January the Daily Echo reported on major concerns over the care of vulnerable patients at the unit.

It followed a damning report from the Care Quality Commission CQC launched after inspectors swooped unannounced on the hospital.

The report revealed drugs were “not always handled appropriately” while staff “did not always ensure that medicines were safely administered.

This followed a separate inspection in August last year in which concerns were raised about care, welfare and medicine records.

Care providers Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust were ordered to make immediate improvements – or face even more serious action such as fines, restrictions on new patients at the unit or even being shut down.

Another unannounced inspection was due to take place within weeks.

The report revealed inspectors found that although the care plans were individualised to meet the mental health needs of patients, they did not always detail the support and care each patient required for physical health while audits were not always carried out effectively.

One patient appeared to have no care plan to explain how their oxygen levels were being monitored while medicines were found out of their packets – making it impossible to see if they had been dispensed, what for, and when they would become out of date.