PATIENTS at a Leigh dental practice are being told to go elsewhere if they want free dental treatment because the surgery has run out of NHS funds.

The Leigh Primary Care Dental Surgery on London Road, is telling patients who try to book appointments that they can’t get NHS appointments there until the start of the new financial year in April.

Jo Maddison, 34, tried to get an NHS appointment for her four-year-old daughter Daisy last week but was told she would have to pay £21 if she wanted it.

Miss Maddison, who has been a patient for three years, said: “Obviously it’s a shame for all kids under 18 who have got toothache and in 2014 can’t get free treatment on the NHS.

“I wanted to inform people so I put a message out on Twitter. I would have thought that the surgery would have wanted to tell everyone when they have so many patients.

“Surely the funding shouldn’t run out in January when they’ve still got three months until the end of the financial year?”

Another patient, who asked not to be named, said: “I was told my usual treatment would be more than £20 extra than it would otherwise have been. I haven’t got that kind of money to spare.”

The centre is run by the Hurunani & Co group. A spokeswoman at the company said: “Over the last three months we’ve seen a surge in patients which has made us use up our funding for the year.

“No emergency treatment is being stopped at all. Any patients that are just being seen for routine treatment are given an option to go to our Hockley practice, or they can wait until April.

“We’re not turning anybody away and we’ve extended our hours in Hockley.”

A spokesman for NHS England’s Essex Area Team, who provide funding to surgeries, said: “NHS England are committed to providing the best possible dental care to our patients.

“If a practice does run out of funding then delaying treatment until April isn't the only option.

“Patients should be being informed by their dentist that they are welcome to visit any other NHS dental practice as not all practices will have used their funding for the current financial year."

FUNDING for NHS dental treatment has gone through several changes over the last few years, and is set to change again.

Last year, primary care trusts (PCTs) were abolished and the commissioning of dental services taken over by NHS England.

The body took over allocating funding for the services but inherited the type of currency used – called units of dental activity (UDAs) – which were introduced in 2006.

They measure things that dentists do but are not popular with all and are opposed by the British Dental Association. For example a unit counts as the same when one filling is given to someone as it does when one person receives 12 fillings.

The Leigh practice is no longer able to take NHS patients this year because it has used up its UDA quota in January.

Different practices can be given wildly differing sizes of quotas depending on the contract they have agreed with NHS England.

Their use is currently being reviewed by government.