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

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

He called his local NHS dentist to book an appointment, but he was told he would have to get one privately in order to be seen, at a considerable cost.

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

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

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

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

The father-of-three said: ‘I was in loads of pain, but I was told outright there was no chance of me getting an appointment with the NHS.

‘So, I got one in Ukraine, straight away, for a fraction of the cost. It just shows how much of a mess NHS dental care is over here right now.’

Richard, whose wife is Ukrainian, said that the quote to have his abscess removed privately came to a minimum of £875, plus a £75 emergency fee.

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 book an appointment.

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They told him they could see him immediately, so he took a flight to Poland on February 28 and caught a 13-hour train across the border to Kyiv.

Within a week, his abscess had been drained. He also had extra work done, including three root canals and a filling for £220.

Richard said: ‘The dentist there said he’d happily see me, so I flew to Lublin and got a very long train to Kyiv.

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

‘I took the opportunity to have a full check-up while I was there, and found out I needed root canal and a filling – so he did that for me too.

‘And, when I saw the bill, I knew it had been worth it.’

An aerial view Kyiv in the snow on March 6, 2023

An aerial view Kyiv in the snow on March 6, 2023

A woman standing in front of a burning house that has been shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv, on March 4, 2022

A woman standing in front of a burning house that has been shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv, on March 4, 2022

Richard had four separate appointments in Ukraine and then made his way back to Cambridgeshire.

He said that during his stay he heard air raid sirens sounding every day and had to abide by the city’s strict 11pm to 5am curfew. The curfew has now been moved to 12am, effective as of tomorrow. 

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

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

From March 1 to March 19 of this year, the UN Human Rights Office recorded 469 civilian casualties in Ukraine, with 113 of those people killed. 

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

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

He said: ‘Kyiv was a lot quieter than it was before, and there were anti-tank defences lined across the streets ready to be moved at a moment’s notice.

‘Air sirens went off around two to three times a day, but the locals are pretty used to it by now, so they were quite calm.

‘It’s crazy that we’ve invited Ukrainian nationals to take refuge in the UK, but if they have a tooth problem, they have zero chance of being seen by an NHS dentist.

‘But over there, anyone can walk in off the street and be seen straight away, whatever their nationality – and the country is literally a warzone. It’s very backwards!’

Richard called his local NHS dentist to book an appointment, but was told he would have to get one privately in order to be seen, at a considerable cost. As a last resort, he decided to travel to Kyiv, where he lived before the war, to get the work done at his old dental practice

Richard called his local NHS dentist to book an appointment, but was told he would have to get one privately in order to be seen, at a considerable cost. As a last resort, he decided to travel to Kyiv, where he lived before the war, to get the work done at his old dental practice

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 fuelling the crisis, according to the organisation.

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

Dentists argued that under the current contract, it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures because of a lack of government investment.

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BDA analysis of the 2022 NHS GP Survey showed that nearly 6 million adults tried and failed to get an NHS dentist appointment, while 3.6 million did not try, believing an appointment would not be available.

Another 1 million people were also put off by the cost of NHS dental charges, with 500,000 others reported to be stuck on waiting lists.

The BDA said: ‘Both the government and the opposition need to step up and offer a plan.’

A spokesperson added: ‘Patients are struggling to get NHS appointments and are also being put off by the fear of either not getting an appointment or the cost.

‘All parties need to commit to reverse these trends.

‘That must begin with commitments to reform of the discredited NHS dental contract, underpinned by adequate investment.’

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

‘This crisis won’t be fixed with soundbites or tweaks at the margins. To turn the corner, we need a plan based on real reform and fair funding.’

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

Charlwood said: ‘All of the good things in a system that used to keep people in the NHS system have been removed. Are you surprised that NHS dentists are leaving the system? 

‘It really is not rocket science. Improve the terms and the conditions, increase the commitment to NHS dentistry through proper and sustainable funding and you will have NHS dentists again.’

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