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An idiot dentist abroad

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    The cost of dental treatment rising in the UK is leading to unprecedented numbers of patients seeking treatment abroad [1]

    By Ben Lees

It was recently reported that 63,000 Britons are going abroad for medical care because the NHS waiting lists are far too long and the private treatment fees in the UK can be competitively undercut by other medical institutions in the European Union where cheap flights are easy to come by.

Comparing treatment abroad

The unofficial reports state that in fact the figure of Britons searching further afield for treatment may be closer to 200,000. Out of the confirmed figures, it has been calculated that 70% of these patients are seeking dental treatment.

The market for shopping around for cheaper treatment has led to the conception of companies promoting treatment in other countries as more affordable. The comparison sites provide information to allow a patient to compare different establishments as well as a review system to allow new patients to research the experiences of the previous patient.

The companies also offer assistance and guidance in booking flights and accommodation and on how to pick the best establishment for your treatment needs.

It is refreshing to think that this is available to us as European citizens and I have a number of friends and clients who have praised the treatment they have received abroad. However, I remain wary of the dangers of treatment outside of the UK and no treatment should be embarked upon without the right due diligence beforehand.

The risks of receiving negligent treatment in another country

Whilst there are plenty of competent dental practitioners throughout the EU, and the world for that matter, things can still go wrong.

It is therefore vital that a patient researches the treatment provider as much as possible, before embarking on dental treatment abroad. In the unfortunate event that the treatment is negligent, a dental negligence claim must be brought in the “home” country of the treatment provider company.

This means that if a Briton receives treatment in Hungary and later discovers the treatment received was negligent, he or she will have to take action to bring a dental negligence claim and, unless there are specific circumstances allowing for an exception, the course of action will have to be brought following Hungarian law through the Hungarian Legal System if this is where the company is registered.

Whilst the Hungarian system has its similarities to UK law, there are always differences and there are also plenty of other countries offering treatment that will not have the same negligence law that the UK offers.  This means that it may be more or less difficult to pursue an action against a dental professional than it would be if the treatment had been provided in the UK.

It also means that UK lawyers may not be able to provide legal assistance. One way to increase the likelihood of access to the UK Courts for a dental negligence claim for treatment abroad, is to check that the medical provider company has a registered office in the UK. If you would like to discuss the dental treatment you have received abroad, please call a member of our dental negligence team.

Meanwhile, I will keep an eye out in the hope that the recent election will lead to fundamental changes in the accessibility and affordability of dental treatment in the UK.

[1] The report ‘Implications for the NHS of Inward and Outward Medical Tourism’ (HSR 09/2001/21)

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