12 Dec 2019  •  Blog, NHS  •  5min read

How and why I left the NHS

Almost half of NHS dentists who say they don’t see themselves in the NHS in five years’ time are intending to move to private dentistry.

That’s according to the latest results of the Dentistry Confidence Monitor survey.

While many may be planning a move towards private dentistry, it can be difficult to know who to turn to and how to take that first step.

To delve deeper into these issues, I spoke to Ann-Marie Bard, principal dentist at Cleobury Dental, who moved private in 2016 and who will be on hand as a source of practical and honest advice at a free event for dentists thinking of going private

Josie: What made you decide to leave the NHS?

Ann-Marie: The move from NHS to private was a personal tug of war for me, but ultimately came from utter frustration at not being able to provide the type of dentistry I wanted to. I’d worked in the NHS for 20 years and my parents had worked in the NHS, so it’s something I really believe in.

However, with funding becoming tighter and tighter, and costs increasing, alongside the uncertainty around the contract reform and how difficult the new contracts could be to fulfil, I had to consider whether our practice should have all its eggs in the NHS basket.

I spent around two years thinking about whether or not to make the move to private dentistry. I finally made the decision after doing a molar root canal that took two hours, but then feeling worried about the cost to the practice. It was a constant juggling of time, money and the desire to deliver quality clinical dentistry, and something had to change.

Josie: How did you come to the decision of doing a principal-only conversion?

Ann-Marie: Just as I didn’t want to be completely NHS, neither did I want to jump straight into being wholly private. I decided to move to private whilst the rest of the team remained NHS, which I felt would ease my personal frustration and worries but also give the practice more options for the future.

During my younger associate days, I had worked at NHS practices where the principal had converted to private using plan providers, one of which was Practice Plan. I thought it was a very fair system that really benefitted the patients, so I contacted them to start the ball rolling. I knew from the start I wanted to have a membership plan due to the guaranteed income and steady cash flow, regardless of absence due to holiday or illness.

Josie: How was the transition?

Ann-Marie: The whole process of sending letters to patients prior to their next appointments took around 12 months and, of course, at the start I had concerns around whether it was going to work financially, how patients would react and whether they would move with me.

Having those conversations with patients is scary at first but it soon becomes second nature and being open and transparent is appreciated by them.

In that year, we exceeded the target for the number of patients I needed to move private with me – which was a huge relief.

Josie: How do you feel now about your work?

Ann-Marie: Since moving to private I have been able to increase the amount of time I spend with my patients and the type of service I can offer. For example, I now feel I can spend half-an-hour with a new patient – rather than the 15 minutes I felt able to allocate under the NHS; also, a general check-up with x-rays is now 20 minutes rather than 10. I also now offer evening and weekend appointments, but at the same time I’ve been able to cut my clinical hours to allow me to pursue a postgraduate qualification and achieve a better work/life balance.

Josie: What advice would you give to other dentists thinking of moving to private?

Ann-Marie: There’s no doubt it is a big decision, and can feel like a scary step to take at first. However, if you plan well, have a great team behind you and communicate openly with patients, it can really reap rewards.

We started to see the benefits just one year down the line, and I fully expect this to continue getting even better.

Ann-Marie will be taking part in our ‘Are You Ready To Break Free From The NHS?’ event on Tuesday 11th February 2020 in Solihull. This event will also be taking place in Manchester, Gatwick and Durham in 2020.

To book your FREE place at these events, click here

Dentists who are unhappy with their current situation but unsure where to turn to will be able to hear from and speak to Ann-Marie as well as experts from Practice Plan and financial specialists who have supported hundreds of dentists through the move from NHS to private.

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