THOUSANDS of NHS patients are facing a jaw-dropping journey to see a dentist after hearing their practice is going private.
But dentists Roger Griffiths and John Ellison are set to quit the surgery in Avenue Parade, Accrington, in protest when the change takes place in January.
The pair are planning to set up their own NHS practice in the Ribble Valley but it means patients will have to travel several miles for treatment.
Announcing the move, Mr Griffiths said: "We have about 5,000 patients on our books and they will be very welcome to come with us.
"We have found a site but the Primary Care Trust is frightened of letting people know about it in case there are queues around the block. People will have to contact the PCT to make appointments."
He has welcomed the Government's decision to give primary care trusts more control over funds to tackle dental health problems.
He said: "I think the contract is good as it allows dentists more flexibility to do their work and take on extra things as and when they want."
Last month, health minister Rosie Winterton visited Hyndburn as part of a whistle-stop tour of the region.
She announced an extra 12,000 NHS dental places in Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley over the next 12 months.
Mr Griffiths said: "The new reforms will be a big help in this area.
"It is excellent news that the Primary Care Trust has been given more control so funds can go into needy areas."
Patients have been issued with letters informing them about the changes.
But those who have started a course of treatment will still be able to see it through.
Derek Cummins, associate director for modernisation and commissioning, said: "It is regrettable that another dental practice has decided to de-register its patients and only offer private treatment.
"However, the PCT is developing up to 12,000 new local NHS places from existing and new dentists. This will include a new additional dental facility planned for Accrington Victoria Hospital."
Patients needing urgent treatment should call the emergency dental service on 0845 4647.