South London health officers have called on the General Dental Council to investigate a 'legal loophole after a dentist had a complaint against him dropped.

The Peckham dentist, Roy Evans, told a hearing of the service committee of the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark Family Health Services Authority that he had to treat the complainant as a private patient because relevant NHS forms had not been filledin.

The committee abandoned the hearing because the NHS cannot investigate or censure dentists on their treatment of private patients.

The patient's claim that she suffered unnecessary pain as a result of treatment by Mr Evans has been denied on his behalf.

Although both sides believe the matter has been closed, the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark Family Health Services Authority told Independent London yesterday that further investigation has not been ruled out.

The pati ent, Christina Jordan, 33, from Peckham, said she was 'devastated' by the outcome of the inquiry. She claims the treatment left her in pain for 55 days and caused her to lose 22 working days.

'I lost a month of my life. It was the kind of pain that takes over everything. I couldn't sleep, eat or do anything and I was taking pain killers right up to the end,' she said.

'I have waited for a year to have this dentist investigated. I suffered terribly after he pulled my tooth out.'

Her treatment included a tooth extraction, x-rays and three treatment sessions and she claims she was due to go back for a fourth session when the pain began.

A spokesman for Southwark Community Health Council, who brought the case, said he was furious.

Chief officer Malcolm Alexander said: 'An appalling loophole in the dental regulations has been revealed by this case. Miss Jordan's terrible ordeal and her year-long wait for justice will leave a terrible scar.'

He has now written to the General Dental Council in the hope that new regulations will be brought in to plug up the loophole.

'The Community Health Council will immediately demand that people seeking dental treatment in Southwark should be treated as NHS patients unless they sign a form asking for private treatment,' he said.

He called for an information leaflet describing patients' rights to NHS treatment and the procedure for complaining against a dentist to be available at all surgeries.

Mr Evans said yesterday: 'The charges have been completely dropped and I have no further comment.'

However, his wife claimed Ms Jordan knew she was a private patient when she paid a pounds 25 bill for her treatment, and said she doubted whether Ms Jordan had suffered as much as she claimed.

'She was lying through her teeth. My husband treats both NHS and private patients. We take care of our patients, she said.

At present there is no procedure for private patients to complain about their dentist.

A spokeswoman from the British Dental Association said if agreement could not be reached between two parties the next step was usually to engage a solicitor, although patients can also contact the General Dental Council.

(Photograph omitted)