The Government has given Herefordshire Health Authority and the Primary Care Trust a grant of £270,000 to fund a mobile dentist's unit for the communities of Ledbury and Kington.

Gill Jones, the health authority's consultant in dental public health, said the fully-equipped, 18ft Mercedes van could be parking up in Ledbury as early as this autumn.

When Ledbury's Community Hospital opens in the spring of 2002, the van could then be redirected to serve patients on the "Bromyard and Malvern border" and the Golden Valley.

Mrs Jones said: "It's a case of have mobile, will travel. The unit will have everything you would find in a normal dentists' surgery; lights and a chair."

Fixed dental access clinics already exist in Hereford, Leominster and Ross for NHS patients who, because of the demands on dentists, have not managed to register with a NHS dentist.

Mrs Jones said that cover was still needed in the east and west of the county, and so extra money was requested from the Government for the mobile unit, specifically to serve the communities of Ledbury and Kington.

She praised the NHS dentists who "work so hard, but can't work any harder" and said the unit would help to provide dental treatment for people not registered with local practices in Ledbury and Kington, but who need treatment.

The money for the unit has been provided by the Department of Health, following Prime Minister Tony Blair's pledge that everyone would have access to a dentist by this September.