THE crisis surrounding dental treatment is growing after another dentist announced he would stop offering adult NHS treatment.

Barry Parker's surgery, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, is one of three in the Galgate area of the town which serve Teesdale's 25,000 population.

His decision means that none of those three dentists is accepting new NHS patients.

Two years ago, Mr Parker decided he would only offer NHS treatment to patients exempt from paying NHS fees.

From April, this concession will be withdrawn and all adult patients will be treated privately. Mr Parker will continue to treat children on the NHS

The move comes after the Government announced reforms to the NHS dental system.

Instead of being paid for each NHS treatment they carry out, dentists will be given a guaranteed income based on their historical income.

Mr Parker said: "At the moment, I feel the NHS fees are far too low to provide a satisfactory treatment for adult patients.

"I have hung on as long as I possibly can, but in the past few years it has become an impossibility to offer to the level of service I feel is required."

"An NHS dentist's priority will be to meet the targets and having them will take priority over patient care."

Increasing numbers of NHS dentists going private and a shortage of dentists has forced patients to look further afield for treatment.

Head of primary care for Darlington Primary Care Trust (PCT), Lorraine Tostevin, said Darlington has the equivalent of 34 full-time NHS dentists and a decision is expected in March, whether to employ more.

She said: "At the moment, the PCT is making sure that everybody has emergency cover.

"But all those practices are closed to new NHS patients."

A spokesman for Durham Dales PCT said there were NHS dentists in the Bishop Auckland area taking on a limited number of NHS patients.

The Castle Dental Surgery, Barnard Castle, offers predominantly NHS treatment and will be able to take on some new NHS patients when it appoints a new dentist.

David Wigg's Barnard Castle dental surgery is entirely NHS but unable to take on new patients.

For more information about NHS dentists and emergency treatment in the region, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.