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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Desperate patients' dental flight
Dentist generic
Dentists say they have to turn away patients
Getting a local NHS dentist can seem like mission impossible.

Some dentists in England and Wales are reporting they have to turn away NHS patients because local health chiefs have run out of money to pay them.

The dentists blame changes in government policy introduced last year.

Two million people were unable to get treatment last year, so it is no surprise some are resorting to extreme measures to care for their teeth.

BBC One's The One Show has tracked down two people who chalk up air miles just to see a dentist.

Although the Scottish system is different to that operating in England and Wales, Russ Annear, from Elgin 60 miles north of Aberdeen, flies nearly 600 miles to a dentist in London for his six monthly check up.

While Nicola Lewin, from Sheffield has flown 1,000 miles to Budapest to get alternative private treatment for her hereditary gum disease - all the NHS could offer was dentures.

Russ Annear
I'm resigned to the fact that in six months time I'll have to do the whole thing again
Russ Annear

Russ, has not been able to get a dentist since moving to Elgin 13 years ago and has spent the last year on an NHS waiting list.

"My mum said she was sure that her dentist was taking on NHS patients so I phoned them up and made an appointment," he said.

To get this appointment however he has to travel to Aberdeen airport for a flight to London.

Once in London he has to catch the tube.

"This is the continuation of my outrageous journey to get dental treatment which is completely unfair because I paid all my contributions and I can't get local dental treatment.".

Nicola Lewin
It just seems so stupid to get in the car and drive all the way to Luton and catching a flight for a check up and going to another country but I had no option
Nicola Lewin

His six hour journey covered 600 miles and cost him nearly 600.

"I'm resigned to the fact that in six months time I'll have to do the whole thing again," he said.

Nicola's dilemma was that her teeth were falling out and she did not want dentures.

She was told the alternative was to have implants done privately which would have cost her 52,000 in the UK.

"No way could I afford 52,000."

Eventually she found she could get the same treatment for 16,500 in Budapest - a 2,100 mile round trip that took 12 hours. "It just seems so stupid to get in the car and drive all the way to Luton and catching a flight for a check up and going to another country but I had no option.

The Department of Health maintains however that improvements are being made and the old system in England and Wales was deeply flawed.

A DoH spokeswoman told the BBC the system in Scotland differed to that operating in England.

To find out more watch The One Show, BBC One Monday 30 July 1900 BST.


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SEE ALSO
Q&A: NHS dentistry
28 Mar 07 |  Health

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