One has heard of men committing petty theft in order to avail of prison hospitality. But over there in Wales a man faked drug overdoses so that he could use hospital A&E (Accident and Emergency) wards 'like hotels,' authorities say.
He has now been served with an Asbo (anti-social behaviour order), which would in effect restrict his access to health services.
Mark Smith, 33, from Powys, Wales, visited hospitals on hundreds of occasions over a 14-year period costing the NHS an estimated £117,000.
He will now need to obtain written permission or to pre-arrange an appointment before he is allowed to set foot on NHS premises, except in an emergency.
It is only the second time an Asbo had been issued for such an offence. It has been applied for an indefinite period, but is not applicable in Scotland.
The NHS Counter Fraud Service was alerted to Smith's actions after a tip-off in January last year. The service said Smith had visited A&E departments in major cities on at least 320 occasions between 1993 and 2007.
Dermid McCaufland, acting managing director of the NHS Counter Fraud Service, said the systematic abuse of the NHS was completely unacceptable. 'Not only did he use hospitals as hotels and ambulances as a taxi service, he harassed staff and patients,' he said.
Smith was bailed at Welshpool magistrates after admitting attempted deception over NHS travel expenses.
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. Sentencing was adjourned for psychiatric and alcohol assessment reports.