A HEALTH watchdog has demanded immediate improvements at two North-East dental surgeries.

The Care Quality Commissioner warned Mr Stephen Kirkup, who runs two dental surgeries in County Durham, that he is failing to protect the safety and welfare of the people using his services.

The CQC issued a formal warning stating that Mr Kirkup must make urgent improvements to standards of care or face further action. The warnings follow unannounced visits by inspectors to Mr Kirkup's surgeries in Meadowfield, and Crook in November 2012.

Inspectors found that Mr Kirkup was failing to comply with national standards covering cleanliness and infection control at both locations.

Decontamination areas and treatment rooms at both surgeries were visibly unclean and contained dirty equipment.

Sterilisation procedures were not being adhered to and there was no effective system in place to ensure equipment was used within the required timescale or re-sterilised where required.

Cleaning could not be carried out in a decontamination room due to obstructions and Legionella testing had not been undertaken at either surgery.

The provider had no infection control policy in place and was failing to adhere to national guidance on infection prevention.

Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC's director in the North said: "This warning sends a clear and public message that Mr Kirkup needs to address these issues as a matter of urgency or face serious consequences.

"Our inspectors will return to both surgeries in the near future and if we find that the provider is not making the required progress we won't hesitate to use our legal powers to ensure patients are receiving the service they are entitled to expect."

Mr Kirkup was not available for comment.