A LEADING dentist has warned that Government reforms will lead to the collapse of NHS dental services in the region.

Robin Turbitt, chairman of the Durham Local Dental Committee, said his colleagues were unanimous that, should the Government bring in the controversial changes, they will leave the NHS and go private.

Mr Turbitt, who practises in Darlington, said: "I have been able to discuss the proposed changes with numerous dental colleagues across the county.

"Every single one has stated that, should the proposed changes be imposed by the Government, they do not feel that they can make the new system work successfully for their patients and will have little option but to leave the NHS altogether."

In July, the Government revealed plans to bring in three bands of charges, setting maximum prices for different levels of treatment.

If the proposals are accepted, it would mean significant rises in the cost of routine NHS treatment.

A check-up, which could include scaling and polishing, would cost £15. The second band of pricing would mean basic treatment, such as fillings or extractions, costing £41.

More complex treatment, such as crowns or dentures, would cost £183.

The new system will include a new contract which will mean dentists will be paid for the entire service they provide, not just for each treatment.

Government ministers say that the contracts are due to be begin in April.

But the proposals have been criticised by the British Dental Association, which says that they will not achieve the Government's goal of a more preventative approach to dentistry.

The association also says the proposals will not tackle the excessive workload currently being faced by NHS dentists.

Mr Turbitt urged patients to protest about the reforms by writing to politicians.

He said: "I would urge your readers to contact their local MP expressing their concern over the possible collapse of NHS dentistry in their region."

Mr Turbitt said the proposal to charge someone who has one filling carried out the same rate as someone who has ten done was unfair.

The Department of Health said the contracts will be supported by £360m of new investment.

A spokesman said the new charging system would be simpler and boost preventative health.