Making a move away from the NHS to a fully private practice is a proposition that many NHS contract holders find very attractive and yet, most choose to continue to accept the pressures they feel come with the delivery of an NHS contract because they consider the risks of making the move away to be too great.
However, the reality of this can often be different to perception and, for many practices, the risks are actually a lot smaller than first imagined.
Practice Plan’s NHS Change Support Team address two of the most common concerns when it comes to contemplating a move to private dentistry and provide clear advice as to how they might be be handled.
Firstly, the most common question asked by NHS dentists is…
Will my patients stay with me through the change?
Despite the very tangible benefits that a move to private dentistry can deliver to patients, some will still want to remain within the NHS and will look to find an alternative practice or dentist. This is a natural and predictable consequence of the change and in many cases, actually desirable if more time is to be offered to those patients that do stay with you.
However, there are things that you can do to maximise the chance of enough patients remaining with you, and your team have a huge role to play in this respect.
The next thing is to get a full understanding of how many patients you actually need to retain to have a profitable and sustainable practice – how many is ‘enough’? As private patients tend to generate more income than NHS patients, you can often afford to take a significant drop in your overall patient numbers and still find that the financial numbers stack up appropriately.
This is where having the support of experienced professionals can help. Practice Plan is hugely experienced in helping practices like yours make a successful move to private dentistry. We can help you crunch the financial numbers so that you get a full and clear understanding of how many patients you need to attain. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover this figure feels more achievable than first thought.
Assuming your patient number targets are realistic, take the time to talk to the team about the future vision of the practice, what role they have to play in helping to make it happen and what the benefits are for them, the patients and the practice. Having your team fully behind the change is of paramount importance for a successful transition.
It’s also important to ensure they have the right training in what and how they communicate to patients regarding the change. Although there will always be some unexpected questions from patients, there will be many common themes and taking the time to explore potential replies will give confidence to the team and, ultimately, the patient. This is one of the areas that the Practice Plan team are on hand to help with.
Another big question on the lips of many NHS dentists is…
How can I keep some of the financial security I receive from my NHS contract?
This is a very easy question to answer – introduce a patient membership plan!
A patient membership plan is a very simple and very effective way of generating a level of consistent cash flow through your business. In essence, a plan provides your patients with the ability to spread the cost of their regular preventive dentistry into easy monthly payments. This means you receive a regular monthly income that provides the perfect foundation to build your private business on and gives you some of the security you had with your NHS contract. Patient membership plans also build loyalty between the patient and the practice and help to encourage regular attendance and reduce missed appointments.
Over and above this, many practices offer plan members discounts on additional treatments as a thank you for their loyalty, which has the effect of increasing treatment plan uptake.
Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans (that means all the plan material is branded to your practice, not a third-party provider). We can help you create and implement a plan that is right for your practice and your patients. We do this by helping you look at your costs, factor in an appropriate amount of remuneration for you, and help you set your hourly rates. We then look at the competition in your area and build a membership plan and price that covers your costs and is competitive.
So, with some of the concerns considered, what else is there to think about?
Well, of course, there are many other influencing factors that you need to factor into your decision-making process – such as ‘what happens to your NHS pension?’ or ‘how do you market a private practice?’ or even ‘does the practice need upgrading to reflect your new offer?’ The good news is Practice Plan has brought together a number of proven and experienced industry experts in all of these fields and more in the recently launched ‘NHS Change Support Team’. From finance to marketing, strategy to branding, members of the team are on hand, via your Regional Support Manager, to provide honest and practical advice to help you make an informed decision about the future of your practice.
If you’re considering making the move away from NHS dentistry, rest assured that, in most cases, the actual risks are much smaller than those that are generally perceived. And, with a proven partner like Practice Plan by your side, you’ll receive all of the support and advice you need to make the best decision for you and your practice.
To find the answers to further questions you may have, find out more here.
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