NHS Asbo for alcoholic
A Mid Wales alcoholic has become only the second person in the UK to be given a nationwide Anti-Social Behaviour Order for misuse of the health service, it emerged today.Mark John Smith, 33, of Swallow Drive, Newtown, used hospitals as hotels, ambulances as taxis and harassed NHS staff, a court heard. Now he has been handed the Asbo by Welshpool magistrates.
He is banned from entering any NHS premises in the country without an appointment or written permission, other than in a genuine emergency.
David Rees, of the NHS Counter Fraud Service in Wales, said yesterday the NHS had received an anonymous tip-off about Smith in January 2006 when it was alleged he was falsely claiming travelling expenses from a hospital in Cardiff.
That triggered an investigation into Smith’s behaviour that uncovered he had faked drug overdoses and heart attacks to be admitted to hospitals across the UK.
They included the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital as well as hospitals in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester, said Mr Rees.
He said: “Between 1993 and 2007, Mark Smith visited A&E departments and was admitted to hospitals in major cities all over the UK on at least 320 occasions.
“He is known to have harassed and abused NHS staff and patients on a number of occasions. To be admitted as an inpatient, he also misused the UK’s ambulance services while under the influence of alcohol.”
Smith is estimated to have cost the NHS £117,000.
The Asbo was made on August 7, when Smith also admitted two charges of attempting to obtain travel expenses by criminal deception with intent from the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff and the Royal Gwent Hospital.
Sentence was adjourned until yesterday for reports but Welshpool magistrates again adjourned the case until September 25 for further reports. Smith was allowed bail.
Dermid McCausland, acting managing director of NHS Counter Fraud Service, said: “Mr Smith’s actions meant valuable staff time and resources were wasted. Not only did he use hospitals as hotels and ambulances as a taxi service, he harassed staff and patients.”