A British man travelled to war-torn Ukraine for dental treatment after he couldn’t get an appointment with the NHS.
Richard Howe, 58, was suffering severe discomfort after developing an abscess under his tooth last month, but after calling his local NHS dentist to book an appointment, he was told he would have to go private to be seen - at a considerable cost.
Instead, Mr Howe opted to travel to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, where he lived before the war with Russia broke out, to get the work done at his old dental practice. The treatment was half the price he was quoted for private dental work here in the UK - including his travel costs to get there.
The dad-of-three, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, was told he would have to pay a minimum of £875 to have the abscess removed privately, plus a £75 emergency on top. After growing tired of being dismissed by his local NHS dentist, and deciding the private fee was too high, he opted to get the work done abroad instead.
The 52-year-old 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.”
Mr Howe spent 12 years living in Kyiv with his wife, who is Ukrainian, and family, before returning to the UK a month before Vladimir Putin’s invasion. As he still had contacts at the Clinic of Modern Dentistry, the Ukrainian practice where he used to visit, he phoned up to book an appointment and was told he could be seen immediately.
He quickly booked a flight to Poland on 28 February and then caught a 13 hour train service across the border to Kyiv. Within the space of a week, he had his abscess drained plus extra dental work done, including three root canals and a filling, for a bargain price of £220.
He said: “I used to go to them [the Clinic of Modern Dentistry] when I lived in Kyiv, so I trusted that they are a good practice. 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. When I arrived at the clinic, they drained the abscess, killed the infected roots and cleaned up around my tooth.
"I took the opportunity to have a full check-up while I was there, and found out I needed a 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.”
Mr Howe had four separate appointments in Ukraine to get the required dental work done before making his way back to Cambridgeshire. During his stay, he said he heard air raid sirens sounding every day and had to abide by a strict 11pm to 5am curfew currently in place in the city.
While travelling back to Poland on 8 March, Putin launched 80 missiles into Ukraine. Mr Howe, who used to work in the motoring industry, managed to make it home unscathed, but admits the violence opened his eyes to the risks he had run by returning to the country.
He added: “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!”