Dentists who accept children as NHS patients only if their parents register as private patients are to be 'named and shamed' by the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales.

Delegates to ACHCEW's annual conference voted overwhelmingly for a national survey to identify and publicly name dentists 'holding to ransom' local communities.

Cornwall CHC chair Neil Burden told the conference that the practice of forcing parents to pay in order to get their children NHS treatment was 'immoral' and would affect the poorest families.

He said only three dentists in the whole of Cornwall accepted all categories of new NHS patients.

But thousands of people were forced to seek new dentists because they were being de-registered under the rule that patients who did not attend within a 15- month period could be removed.

Joy Santon of York CHC said only one dentist in the city was prepared to take NHS patients.

But a spokesperson for the British Dental Association said it was 'altruistic' for dentists to treat children on the NHS because they had gone private to avoid going bankrupt.

The only way dentists could afford to treat children for free was to see fee paying adults privately.

'To name and shame is unbelievable, ' she said. 'It punishes NHS dentists who have really struggled.'