`They are just trying to paper over the cracks'

A dentist who turned his back on the NHS last night accused health ministers of attempting to "paper over the cracks" in the dental system.

A dentist who turned his back on the NHS last night accused health ministers of attempting to "paper over the cracks" in the dental system.

Richard Fretwell, of Guide Post Dental Practice, near Ashington, Northumberland, said the move was a clear attempt by the Government to hide its embarrassment at the scale of the crisis in NHS dentistry.

It was Mr Fretwell's Guide Post practice which witnessed long queues in November.

It sent letters to its 6,000 patients saying it was quitting the NHS to go private - blaming Government changes and a shortage of funding.

Hundreds waited for hours to re-register as one of the 2,500 private patients being accommodated.

He said: "It must be really embarrassing for the Government every time hundreds of people are seen queuing to register at their practice. It highlights the huge shortage of dentists.

"I'm not surprised the Government wants people to register over the phone, but I don't think this will actually make any difference to the patients themselves.

"It's just the Government trying to paper over the cracks."

Patients were also left to queue in Carlisle on November 9 when dentist Richard Wilson told 17,000 of them at his two practices in the city that he was going private. Two days later, another Carlisle dentist, Liz Mather, said she was going private, creating similar scenes.

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