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BBC Report - Is NHS dentistry in slow decay?

By Nick Lawrence, Inside Out West Midlands

Julia Vorley has travelled from Alrewas in Staffordshire to Budapest, Hungary, to get essential dental treatment.

In doing so, the 40-year-old account executive joins a growing band of people looking towards continental Europe for treatment which, quite simply, is not available on the NHS.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people seeking treatment abroad has more than doubled since a change in way NHS dentists are paid.

Since 2006, NHS dentists are paid for "units of dental activity" - meaning a dentist can end up out of pocket when providing complex treatment.

Not surprisingly, a 2008 parliamentary report reveals complex treatment undertaken by NHS dentists has dropped since the scheme's introduction.

Ms Vorley's case does not make happy reading.

She said: "I had an infection which started up in one tooth.

"I went to the dentist and he actually cut the nerve out the tooth, so the tooth effectively died, and that infection then spread from tooth to tooth.

"And the dentists just kept taking the nerves out.

"So I ended up with my upper jaw all along the front not having any nerves in my teeth at all."

Desperate for a solution, Julia looked at getting replacement teeth - otherwise known as implants.

But although the treatment is technically available on the NHS, Inside Out could find no dentist who has carried out the procedure under the current system.

For private treatment in the UK, Julia was quoted £22,000.

'Core service'

She did not know which way to turn, until a friend suggested Budapest as an option.

This growth in Britons seeking complex treatment abroad is a trend which concerns the Patients' Association.

Spokesman Dr Anthony Halperin, a practising dentist, has a feeling the NHS will be a 'core service' in 10 years' time 'for basic treatment and extractions'.

He added: "That will be very sad for the patients of this country."

But Chief Dental Officer, Dr Barry Cockcroft, insists dentists are "well paid, very clinically minded, very ethically minded, as a whole".

Last year "there were a million crowns and bridges carried out by NHS dentists," he said.

Back in Budapest, Julia is about to undergo the final course, which will see her upper teeth replaced for £6,000.

Whilst brimming with enthusiasm for the standard of treatment provided in Budapest, she is somewhat less complimentary about the NHS.

"I really don't have any faith in it," she said.


14:00 01/08/2012

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