23 May 2024  •  Blog, NHS  •  7min read

Diary of a conversion with Sam Labib of Hanham Dental

Regional Support Manager, Tracy Webb, catches up with recently converted dentist, Sam Labib.

When Sam bought Hanham Dental Practice in 2018 it was a paper only, fully NHS practice. Between 2018 and the beginning of 2020, he set about computerising the practice and bringing all systems up to modern standards. He also replaced equipment that was failing or in need of updating. All was going well until COVID struck and the enforced closures ensued.

However, Sam made the most of the practice being closed to patients by installing air filtration systems, shields, sourcing gowns and so on, so that everything was ready to go as soon as he was given word he could reopen.

When Sam took over, the NHS contract was for 27,000 UDAs. In a bid to make it more manageable for a three-surgery practice he reduced it to 18,000. Despite this reduction, work life felt like a treadmill which required him and his team to keep a constant eye on their UDAs to ensure they could deliver the contract. As Sam says: “We were doing maths rather than doing dentistry most of the time to make sure that we could survive the year without having a clawback.”

At that time the practice was predominantly NHS with some private work. However, this private income was insufficient to make up for the shortfall in NHS revenue. In addition, he had lost multiple members of staff because of the high work rate, even though they had enjoyed working at the practice. They had been offered jobs at other practices where they would be paid more for doing less work. “Working within the NHS, the targets were unreasonable as were the expectations, said Sam. “All the red tape that came with it was excessive and there was no end to the increase in costs. Ultimately it just became tiring, to be honest,” he confesses.

No choice

Costs continued to skyrocket and despite multiple attempts at negotiating, Sam had failed to secure an increase in the contract value. So, he made the decision that for the team to be able to provide the best dentistry and best patient experience they could, they had to move away from NHS Dentistry. Sadly, the combination of spiralling expenses with no prospect of an increase in contract income drove Sam in 2022 to take the decision to move away from NHS dentistry.

Despite knowing it was the best thing for the practice, the decision to leave the NHS was hard for Sam. “I’ve been working in the NHS for nearly 20 years and I know how much people value it,” he explains. “I appreciated that the cost of living was a big issue for people and as a practice owner, it felt like I was taking the practice into the unknown because I didn’t know what the uptake was going to be. I didn’t know how patients would react, but I knew that the business couldn’t carry on the way it was.”


If you’re interested in converting from NHS dentistry, get in touch here.


Why Practice Plan?

“When I had made the decision to introduce private dentistry, I knew I wanted to offer patients a membership plan. So, I reached out to friends and colleagues who have either made the move into private dentistry or who have been private dentists for a long time and Practice Plan kept cropping up as the provider I needed to get in touch with. So, we set up a meeting and we took things from there.

“You [Tracy Webb] were extremely helpful. You laid out exactly what was going to happen. As we got in touch in 2022, which was quite early on, it meant we had a long timeline ahead of us. You were able to give us a very detailed picture of how things should go over the year. This made it much easier to implement our plan rather than having to do everything in a rush.

“We began the preparation at the beginning of 2023. We had been told what we needed to say to patients and the advice we needed to give them. We were also informed of the numbers and details that Practice Plan needed to move on to the next stage. And we just followed the guidelines that you set for us for the lead up to the conversion. Then in January this year (2024) we began informing our patients that we were becoming a private practice and moving away from providing NHS services.

“Because we’d been laying the groundwork for this from summer 23, most of our patients were expecting this and so they were signing up really quickly. We had been set a target of 950 patients to be able to sign up within X amount of time, and within four weeks we had 3,000 patients sign up with us as a practice with upwards of 1,500 of them on plan.

“Thankfully the work we’ve done over the last five years in changing the practice and showing people that we were trying to provide a better service has paid off. It may be that the patients wanted to remain with us, or wanted to make sure that they still had a dentist to treat them. Either way, we have a waiting list of about a thousand patients as well now.”

Talk to others who’ve been through the process

What advice would Sam give to someone considering moving away from NHS dentistry? “Talk to people who’ve done the conversion before,” he says. “Not just other dentists, but members of staff too. Find out about the process. Accept that there will be some low times. We deal with people and some of them feel very strongly about the NHS in this country. So, if you are thinking of converting, there will inevitably be a percentage of the population that will feel very resentful about it and let you know that. Make sure that you have the facilities and the tools to cope with that, whether it’s practising mindfulness or another outlet. But it will pass and when it does, you’ll be glad you did it.

“Some people have guilt about leaving the NHS. There are ways to alleviate that. You can, with your pricing structure, make sure you’re able to cater for those who may not be able to afford the price point you’re aiming for. You can do dental charity work. There are lots of ways you can compensate if you have that guilt. But ultimately you will be providing a better service for your patients, you’ll be providing a better work environment for your staff and you’ll be doing yourself a service in the long run.”

About Sam

Sam Labib graduated from the University of Bristol in 2005. He worked as an associate dentist in Midsomer Norton, Frome, and St George in Bristol before taking over at Hanham Dental in November 2018.

Since then, he’s been modernising and updating the practice to bring it to the forefront of providing high quality dental treatment in a clean and comfortable environment.

He is Invisalign accredited and has an interest in endodontic treatment, composite placement and ceramic work, in addition to providing all aspects of general dentistry.

Sam lives with his wife, two beautiful daughters and Dexter, the family cat. In the little spare time he has, he enjoy building and collecting Star Wars Lego sets and resistance training at the gym.

About Tracy

Tracy Webb has been a Regional Support Manager/ Business Development Consultant for the Practice Plan group for 17 years and has over 30 years’ experience in the dental industry, including 13 years in practice. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, partnering with over 2,000 dental practices and offering a wide range of business support services.


If you’re interested in converting from NHS dentistry, get in touch here.

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