Health Minister Rosie Winterton, has accepted a request from Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor for an urgent meeting to discuss the current crises in Cornish dentistry and NHS finances.

Thelma Holland, the chief executive of the South West Strategic Health Authority, will also be present at the meeting next week.

Mr Taylor originally wrote to the Minister in early February requesting the meeting, following news that dentists in Cornwall were refusing NHS patients because health service payments were too low. Successive Governments since the early 1990s have cut the fee paid to dentists for NHS treatments making it all but impossible to support a dentistry practice on NHS work alone.

"Patients, in effect, are forced either to go private or not be treated at all.

Mr Taylor said: "The Minister's office has assured me that decisions affecting Cornwall's NHS finances will not be finalised until after our meeting.

"For obvious reasons, the meeting could therefore prove to be vitally important - put simply, Cornwall's NHS faces cut-backs unless a sensible solution to the financial deficit is found," said Mr Taylor.

He said that unless at least some of the historic debts are written off a solution cannot be found.

"I also remain extremely concerned by the situation in Cornish dentistry. For years governments have tried to pretend that a fully comprehensive NHS dentistry is available to all," he added.

"Anyone who's recently tried to find an NHS dentist will know full well that we have nothing of the sort. Fewer people than ever before are now registered with a dentist and it's almost impossible to find one accepting NHS patients."