Hundreds of people queued for up to three hours at the weekend to register as NHS patients.

Hundreds of people queued for up to three hours at the weekend to register as NHS patients.

The queues in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire highlighted the lack of access to NHS dental services across the UK.

Phil Loughnane, who runs the Chipping Manor Dental Practice in the village, said more than 800 new patients registered on Saturday after he took on two more dentists. One patient started queuing at 6.30am - three hours before the surgery was due to open. A catering van parked outside the practice did a roaring trade.

Mr Loughnane said: "Most people waited for a couple of hours. Because there is no such thing as an NHS dentist it is a case of there being some practices that will register NHS patients and some that won't. It's worse in other areas."

Mr Loughnane said he hoped to be able to take 2,000 extra patients over the coming months.

The British Dental Association estimates that there is a shortfall of 4,000 qualified dentists in Britain.

In 1990, about 32 million people were registered with an NHS dentist - that has now fallen to 24 million, and an estimated 5 million people do not have dental check-ups or treatment at all because they cannot or will not pay private fees.

Talks on a new contract for dentists broke down last November amid disagreement between the Government and the profession over proposed reforms.

Labour has pledged an extra 1,000 dentists and £386m for training and recruitment, but is having to rely on foreign staff to make up a third of the promised increase.

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