Dental patient forced to head overseas

A BUSINESSMAN quoted almost £700 for private dental work in Suffolk has decided to fly hundreds of miles to have the treatment abroad - and he will save more than £400 into the bargain.

By John Howard

A BUSINESSMAN quoted almost £700 for private dental work in Suffolk has decided to fly hundreds of miles to have the treatment abroad - and he will save more than £400 into the bargain.

Sub-postmaster Paul Marks, 55, chose to be a “dental tourist” after being incensed at private UK dental care, which he now feels is simply about making money.

Mr Marks, an entrepreneur who runs his own businesses, said he was quoted £675 for work to a broken tooth by a Bury St Edmunds dentist, who had left the NHS. The tooth, which has so far caused him no pain, needs root canal work and a gold crown.


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Mr Marks, who runs the post office and stores at Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, has looked into foreign dentists on the internet and been quoted £200 for the same work in Poland - a round trip of 1,434 miles - with flights for under £30.

He is also researching Portugal, a return flight of about 1,700 miles, where he could combine having his teeth done cheaply with spending time at his holiday home in the country.

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Mr Marks was unsuccessful finding an NHS dentist to take him on near his Stowmarket home and feels there is a local crisis in the service after a number of practices stopped taking on NHS patients.

About 1,200 people in Stowmarket and neighbouring villages have signed a petition calling for greater provision of NHS dentistry in the area.

“I am self-employed so I have more freedom and can make this happen, but I am very concerned about those who are having to use local dentists,” said Mr Marks, who is married to Sue.

“Patients are being held to ransom and having to pay out for the work on credit cards, which will become a debt for people for a long time.

“I just feel that this has now become a money-making exercise and if an NHS dentist does open the books, there are long queues to register.”

John Matthissen, a Great Finborough parish councillor, is among those unable to find an NHS dentist willing to take him on near his home and started the petition to tackle the “unacceptable” situation.

Dentists say that one of the reasons that prices are so much cheaper in Eastern European countries is that wage costs abroad are far lower.

But a spokesman for the British Dental Association warned against treatment abroad.

“Anyone thinking about having dental treatment overseas must make sure that they are aware of the potential risks and the hidden costs,” he said.

“Difficulties may arise if there are problems with the treatment when the patient returns home, especially if there are insufficient records of the treatment carried out.

“This situation reflects the problems many people are having accessing NHS dentistry in the UK.”

A spokeswoman for the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) said more NHS dental care needs to be provided across the country.

She said talks were being held in the Stowmarket area, and accepted that it was the PCTs' responsibility to ensure more NHS dentistry is available locally.

“At the moment talks are ongoing, but we are hopeful that we will be successful. We do appreciate that there is a need for more NHS dental care, and are doing all we can,” she said.

Acting Chief Dental Officer, Dr Barry Cockcroft, said dentists in the UK have contracts that allow them to offer modern, preventative care to their patients.

He said: “We are confident that reforms give the NHS a firm basis for improving patient care, and give dentists a firm basis for providing good preventative care for their patients.”

And a spokesman for the Department of Health said that PCTs were making progress replacing services where dentists have not taken up the new NHS contract.

FACTFILE:

Costs for a gold crown and root canal treatment.

Private dentist costs in Bury St Edmunds: £675

Dental treatment cost in Wroclaw, Poland: £200

Return flight from Stansted Airport: £30.

Total cost: £230

Saving: £445

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