Eighty-six per cent of NHS dentists don’t see themselves operating within the NHS in five years’ time, according to the latest NHS Confidence Monitor survey. Almost 500 NHS and private dentists filled in the survey which also showed that 48% of those who are thinking of leaving the NHS are planning to move to private dentistry.
Louise Hunter, owner of Louise Hunter & Associates in Northumberland, was in a similar position to those 48% – working in the NHS but wanting to change to private practice. In 2017 she made the move, and below she shares her story, including her concerns, how she overcame them and the difference it has made…
Louise: ‘I had considered moving to private dentistry for many years prior to making the change. I put it off out of a fear of change and possibly a lack of confidence…would patients stay with me? etc. There is a perception among much of the public that private dentistry offers exactly the same service as on the NHS, but it just costs more. So, there was a worry that patients wouldn’t understand the difference in terms of the types of treatment and materials I can offer when not working in the constraints of the NHS.
“I was sick of being on that treadmill. It never gets easier, it feels like you have to keep working at a faster pace and the job satisfaction just wasn’t there.”
‘I was concerned about how patients would perceive the move and my motives for making it. But I had reached the point where I felt that in the NHS I was just trying to hit the targets and reach the right numbers, and I was sick of being on that treadmill. It never gets easier, it feels like you have to keep working at a faster pace and the job satisfaction just wasn’t there.
‘Over the years I’ve completed lots of clinical courses to learn new skills, such as implants, so I reached a point where I felt confident that I could offer the kind of service patients would expect from private dentistry. I’ve also had many conversations over the years with Jayne Gibson from Practice Plan, who had suggested to me that private dentistry was a route worth exploring. For a long time though I just felt that I wasn’t ready. When it’s your business you have to be comfortable with what you’re doing, and then work with people you can trust to help you do it.
‘When I felt ready, Jayne was there to lead the way and support me to make the move successful. She’s helped so many other practices change to private that she could carry out necessary analysis and allay any concerns I had. Every time I would ask ‘what if this happens’, she would have the answer – and everything she said was spot on, it happened exactly as she said it would. The encouragement and reassurance she provided was a huge help.
“Every time I would ask ‘what if this happens’, she would have the answer – and everything she said was spot on, it happened exactly as she said it would.”
‘There was also practical support, in terms of sending out letters to patients, etc. Importantly, she also helped to train myself and the practice team in how to communicate the change to patients. This was vital to the success of the conversion. As I mentioned, the perception of patients was a concern so we had lots of training, particularly around how to communicate the change well to patients, so we felt confident to have those discussions.
“Our associates are still offering NHS services, as we still wanted to give patients the choice”
‘Our associates are still offering NHS services, as we still wanted to give patients the choice, but I have got so much more job satisfaction since moving to private. I am using the skills that I learned on all the courses, I’m doing more cosmetic work, using higher quality materials and I feel that I am getting fairly remunerated for the work I am doing. I have a completely different mindset now and feel I am actually enjoying my job again now.’
If you are interested in exploring your options away from the NHS, click here for more information.