When I look at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine, like everyone I feel deep sadness for the millions of lives shattered by the conflict. From the safety of the UK, we can only imagine the suffering people are experiencing.
As a medical clinician my thoughts also turn to practical matters. Once they have safeguarded the lives of the millions of refugees flocking into their countries (and God bless them for doing so), how do host countries go about providing basic health care services to people in dire need of them?
It is not an enviable task. If the situation in Poland, Hungary and Ukraine’s other western neighbours mirrors that in the UK, their national health services would already have been struggling to recover from the biggest global pandemic in a century.
In my professional field, dentistry, the impacts of Covid-19 remain particularly acute. The latest NHS statistics for England reveal that only 15.8 million adults (effectively a third of the population) were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months up to December 2021 — a fall of nearly 4 million adults from the previous year, and 6 million adults from the year before that.
The statistics for children are equally grim. 5.1 million (42%) were seen in the past 12 months, and only 3.6 million (29%) in the preceding year.