Asbo Man ‘Used A&E Like Hotels’

A man was given an Asbo after he faked drug overdoses to stay in hospital, government fraud investigators say. Mark Smith, 33, from Newtown, Powys, is banned from hospitals except in a real emergency or with written permission.

The NHS Counter Fraud Service claimed he used casualty units “like hotels” on 320 occasions over a 14-year period.

Smith was bailed at Welshpool magistrates after admitting attempted deception over NHS travel expenses. He will be sentenced next month.

He will be sentenced on 25 September for claiming £200 worth of travel expenses from the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff and the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Details of the anti-social behaviour order emerged after his appearence in court on the attempted deception charges.

The order made on 7 August means that, other than in emergencies, Smith can only be admitted to hospitals in England and Wales with written permission from health officials, such as a GP.

Investigators estimate Smith has cost the NHS an estimated £117,000 in staff time, medicine and accommodation.

According to the NHS, it is only the second time an order had been issued for such an offence in the UK.

It is believed to be first of its kind in Wales.

The case was brought by the NHS Counter Fraud Service following a tip-off to its anti-fraud line in January 2006.

In a statement, the service said that between 1993 and 2007, Smith visited accident and emergency departments in major cities around the UK on at least 320 occasions.

It is alleged that he misused hospitals in Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, and Manchester.

Speaking outside the court on Tuesday, the service’s fraud specialist David Rees said “he had not seen a case like it before”.

Dermid McCausland, acting managing director of the NHS Counter Fraud Service said in a statement that Smith’s “systematic abuse” of the NHS was “completely unacceptable”.

‘Lives at risk’

“Mr Smith’s actions meant valuable staff time and resources were wasted,” he said.

“Not only did he use hospitals as hotels and ambulances as a taxi service, he harassed staff and patients.

“By stopping staff from treating genuine patients, blocking beds and increasing waiting times, he put lives at risk.”

Sentencing for the charges of attempted deception was adjourned for psychiatric and alcohol assessment reports.