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British man goes to Ukraine to get his teeth fixed after NHS said they couldn’t see him

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A British man was forced to travel to war-torn Ukraine to have his teeth fixed for less than half the price it would have cost him in the UK after he was unable to get an NHS appointment.

Richard Howe, 58, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, developed an abscess under his tooth last month which was causing him great discomfort.

He called his local NHS dentist to make an appointment, but was told he would have to arrange a private one to be seen, at considerable cost.

As a last resort, Richard decided to travel to kyiv, where he lived before the war, to have work done at his old dental office.

The treatment, including travel costs, was half the price quoted in the UK.

Richard Howe, 58, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, developed an abscess under his tooth last month which was causing him great discomfort.

The father-of-three said: ‘I was in a lot of pain, but I was told straight up that there was no chance I would get an NHS appointment.

‘So, I got one in the Ukraine, right away, for a fraction of the cost. It just goes to show how messy NHS dental care is here at the moment.

Richard, whose wife is Ukrainian, said the fee to remove his abscess in private was a minimum of £875, plus an emergency fee of £75.

Richard had spent 12 years living in kyiv with his wife and family and returned to the UK a month before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year.

He still has contacts at the Clinic of Modern Dentistry, the Ukrainian practice where he used to visit, so he phoned them to make an appointment.

They told him they could see him right away, so he flew to Poland on February 28 and took a 13-hour train across the border to kyiv.

Within a week, the abscess was drained. Additional work was also done, including three root canals and a filling for £220.

Richard said: ‘I used to go to them when I lived in kyiv so I was confident they are good practice.

“The dentist said he would happily see me, so I flew to Lublin and took a very long train to kyiv.

‘The trip cost me £100 each way in total, but as I have a house there, accommodation was free.

‘When I got to the clinic they drained the abscess, killed the infected roots and cleaned around my tooth.

“I took the opportunity to get a full checkup while I was there and found out I needed a root canal and filling so he did it for me.

“And when I saw the bill, I knew it had been worth it.”

An aerial view of the city after snow in kyiv, Ukraine on March 6, 2023

An aerial view of the city after snow in kyiv, Ukraine on March 6, 2023

A woman reacts in front of a burning house after being shelled in the town of Irpin, on the outskirts of kyiv, on March 4, 2022.

A woman reacts in front of a burning house after being shelled in the town of Irpin, on the outskirts of kyiv, on March 4, 2022.

Richard had four separate appointments in the Ukraine and then returned to Cambridgeshire.

He said that during his stay he heard air raid sirens go off every day and had to abide by the city’s strict 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. This curfew will be moved to 12 am starting tomorrow.

On March 8, Richard travels back to Poland by train.

The next day, more than 80 Russian missiles and a smaller number of explosive drones struck residential buildings and critical infrastructure across the country, killing six people and leaving hundreds of thousands without heat or electricity.

From March 1 to 19 of this year, the UN Human Rights Office recorded 469 civilian casualties in Ukraine, 113 dead and 356 wounded.

Last week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for overseeing the kidnapping of Ukrainian children.

Richard, who used to work in the automobile industry, admits that the trip opened his eyes to what was happening in the country.

He said: ‘Kyiv was much calmer than before, and there were anti-tank defenses lined up on the streets ready to be moved at any moment.

‘The air sirens went off around two or three times a day, but the locals are pretty used to it by now, so they were pretty quiet.

“It is crazy that we have invited Ukrainian citizens to take refuge in the UK, but if they have a dental problem, they have no chance of being seen by an NHS dentist.

“But there, anyone can get off the street and be seen immediately, whatever their nationality, and the country is literally a war zone. It’s very backwards!

Earlier this month, the British Dental Association (BDA) called on the government and opposition to ‘commit’ to action to reform the ‘broken’ service.

A ‘discredited’ contract system is fueling the crisis, according to the organization.

Richard called his local NHS dentist to make an appointment, but was told he would have to arrange a private one to be seen, at considerable cost.  As a last resort, Richard decided to travel to kyiv, where he lived before the war, to get work done at his old dental office.

Richard called his local NHS dentist to make an appointment, but was told he would have to arrange a private one to be seen, at considerable cost. As a last resort, Richard decided to travel to kyiv, where he lived before the war, to get work done at his old dental office.

It is now being investigated by the Health and Social Care Committee.

The dentists argued that under the current contract it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures due to a lack of government investment.

BDA’s analysis of the 2022 NHS GP Survey suggests the number of Britons struggling to see an NHS dentist rose by seven million, up from four million in 2019.

This represents almost one in four adults in England.

Some 6 million adults ‘tried and failed’ to get an appointment with the NHS dentist, while 3.6 million did not try to ‘believe an appointment would not be available’, they said.

Another million people were also put off by the cost of NHS dental charges, with another 500,000 reportedly stuck on waiting lists.

The BDA said: “Both the government and the opposition must step up and offer a plan.”

A spokesperson added: ‘Patients have difficulty getting appointments in the NHS and are also discouraged by fear of not getting an appointment or the cost.

‘All parties must commit to reversing these trends.

“That must start with commitments to reform the discredited NHS dental contract, backed by adequate investment.”

General Dental Practice Committee Chairman Shawn Charlwood said: ‘Every day a broken system remains in place, we lose dentists, while millions struggle to access care.

“This crisis will not be solved by sound bites or margin adjustments. To turn the corner, we need a plan based on real reform and fair financing.’

He added: “NHS dentistry is running out of steam.”

Nationwide, there was only one NHS dental practice for every 4,975 people at the start of 2023.

On Tuesday of this week, the BDA warned that the service is reaching the end of the road during the submission of evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into NHS dentistry.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘All the good things have been removed from a system that used to keep people in the NHS system. Are you surprised that NHS dentists are leaving the system?

‘It’s not really rocket science. Improve terms and conditions, increase commitment to NHS dentistry through adequate and sustainable funding and you’ll be back to NHS dentists.’

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