A pensioner was left in agony for almost three months while waiting for urgent dental treatment.

Bertha Barclay, 97, could not eat properly over Christmas and suffered seering pain after being told she was "low priority" by West Sussex Primary Care Trust.

The former Government officer, who lives in sheltered housing at Shadwells Court in Shadwells Road, Lancing, said she was furious about how she had been treated and was taking legal advice.

She said she had also contacted her MP Tim Loughton who said he would look into the situation for her.

She said: "It has been nearly three months with a bad tooth throbbing. I have been on painkillers but they just take the swelling down and don't stop the ache.

"I couldn't mix with people or anything over Christmas - I was in too much pain. I had to leave the meal and lay down in my room. It has really affected my life.

"When I rang the hospital all I got was someone either saying I don't know anything about it or someone else saying 'your case is not a priority'.

"In whose view am I not considered priority?

"I have paid my income tax up to the age of 88 and never drawn employment benefit or anything like that.

"I am being humbugged about."

Miss Barclay said she had a history of problem teeth and so had gone to a private dentist for 40 years until he retired the summer.

When her teeth began to hurt in November she struggled to find a replacement dentist who would treat her and was finally seen by an NHS dentist at the beginning of December.

He said that because of her age and because three of her teeth needed special attention she would have to be treated in a hospital so sent an urgent referral that day.

The date she was finally given for treatment was February 16.

West Sussex PCT, which oversees health care in the county, first wrote back on December 28 saying the appointment could not be considered to be urgent unless the referral was supported by the dentist.

The dentist faxed them his support that day.

The health authority replied again on January 4 saying Miss Barclay was considered a "low priority procedure" and the dentist needed to fill in a LPP form, bureaucratic paperwork recently introduced by government, after which a panel would decide where and when she would be treated.

Meanwhile the 97-year-old was in severe pain on both sides of her face, which had swollen with an infection, and could only eat porridge, mashed potatoes and mashed-up fish. One of her molars broke off, leaving just the root stuck in the gum.

She was finally referred back to a community dentist because they said her treatment did not need to be in a hospital.

An initial appointment for January 19 had to be postponed because Miss Barclay had a heart attack then another, for February 9, was put back another week because the dentist wanted to go on holiday.

After the elderly patient kicked up a fuss they moved the appointment earlier to February 2.

She said: "I just got so mad. I just couldn't understand why it was difficult and didn't know where to turn.

"It is incompetence and too much bureaucracy.

"It is disgusting how people how old people get treated."

A week later, Miss Barclay said she was still in pain from the surgery which had been made worse by the wait.