In a few weeks’ time, one of Practice Plan’s longest standing customers will be ditching his scrubs in favour of a life away from clinical dentistry.
The sale earlier this year of Principal Dentist, Jason Greenwood’s The Stafford Dental Practice heralds the end a 36-year dental career and a relationship with Practice Plan of more than 25 years’ standing. He attributes the longevity of his association with Practice Plan to two things: “No reason whatsoever to leave. And loyalty. I’m very loyal.”
However, he admits to that being an oversimplification! “There are lots of reason why I have remained loyal to Practice Plan for as long as I have,” he states. “It’s very much a family atmosphere. When you ring up, they know who you are and there’s a feeling of belonging. That’s been the case all along, even after it was bought by Wesleyan. They still managed to retain that family-run atmosphere.”
On his point about loyalty, Jason feels it has run both ways. “Previous owners, Jan and John [Tinsley] and later, Regional Support Manager, Josie and the rest of the team, have put in a huge amount of effort to make everything work for us. When we were starting out, John put so many hours into helping me.
“At one point he told me that if I carried on doing what I was doing, I’d go bankrupt. He gave us a lot of his time, very much holding my hand, sitting down at my computer, restructuring things, showing me how to charge, how to structure the business. It was invaluable business advice.”
Since she became his Regional Support Manager 22 years ago, he has felt the same level of support from Josie Hutchings as he’d received from John. Although he values the business advice he’s been given, he’s also grateful for the personal relationship they’ve had. “If you say it’s a friendship, it sounds wishy-washy and silly,” he asserts. “But it is a friendship and it’s just absolute trust. It’s the confidence of knowing that there’s always someone on the end of the phone. That’s a big one for me.”
The strength of Jason’s relationships with Practice Plan, both personal and business, was highlighted to him in 2010 when he and his business found themselves in a precarious position due to some unfortunate events. “We were in a tricky position,” Jason recounts, “But I was blown away by the response I got from Practice Plan.
“The MD at the time, phoned me and was sympathising and empathising with me. And then he said, ‘If there’s anything we can do, and by that, I mean Practice Plan and myself, including financial, you just have to ask.’ And, when I spoke to Josie, she, without hesitation said, ‘he meant it.’ We didn’t ask, but the support and backup we got, and the moral support from Josie at the time was perfect.”
However, he knows that his relationship with Practice Plan is not unique. He recalls an occasion at a dentistry event a few years ago. “I overheard a dentist talking about business issues. She had just got rid of her NHS contract. And it just wasn’t working for her. It ended up that there were about five of us in the conversation with her, including Nigel Jones from Practice Plan.
“We were asking her questions about her business: what are you charging? What are your overheads? And so on. And then Nigel chimes in with, ‘I think we need to get Sheila Scott, the consultant, with you for a day.’ But then the dentist looked very worried and said, ‘I can’t afford it’. And Nigel just said, ‘No, no, no. Practice Plan pays for it.’ That was just so impressive.”
Reinforcement and reassurance we’re on the right path
Over the years, Jason has taken advantage of the various events organised by Practice Plan. He values the Workshop Tour highly and, at the beginning of each year, factors into his hourly rate the one-day closure of the practice so everyone can attend. Having been in business for so long he finds the event reassuring. “I get from the day some reinforcement that we’re doing the right things,” he says. “It’s a good team building day out and Practice Plan put on a good show and look after you properly. But it’s also a great chance for the staff to have the chance to meet up with the team, so they’re not just voices on the phone.”
Jason is also a veteran of the much-praised Club Weekend, having attended every single one to date without fail. As well as the sheer fun of being there, he finds it a great opportunity to have some worthwhile conversations with other dentists. “What you get from Club Weekend conversations is honesty. At the old what they used to call section 63 meetings, to do with postgrad courses, you were just getting rooms full of people talking rubbish. ‘Oh, I’m booked for the next eight months’. ‘I’ve just bought my new Ferrari’. Whereas you get people at Practice Plan events saying things like, ‘I’m quiet for the next three weeks’ or ‘I’m struggling to recruit a new nurse.’ Just completely honest and open. There’s no front and the ego isn’t there, the one-upmanship isn’t there. It’s nice knowing we are all in the same boat.”
Do it now
It was the changes to the contract in 1992 that prompted Jason to leave the NHS, although he retained contracts for children and exempt adults until 2010 before finally handing them back too. While he has some sympathy for dentists struggling with the dilemma of whether to choose to continue with an NHS contract or leave, he is unequivocal about how he feels about the way dentists have been treated by the NHS. “You’ve got the moral point of view, which I wholly support as far as looking after people goes,” he concedes. “But loyalty to the NHS system? None whatsoever. Simply because it’s stabbed dentists in the back for too long. It’s not that the people in the NHS are bad. It’s political interfering that’s the problem.”
So, as he comes towards the end of a long and eventful career, what would he say to a dentist wrestling with the ‘should I stay, or should I go?’ question at the moment? “Why haven’t you gone before now? Do it,” is his response.
However, he does temper this with a note of caution. “With conversion there are potential pitfalls so I would recommend partnering with a company to help you through the process,” he advises. “And that’s got to be somebody who has the experience and the expertise to answer any and all of your questions. Obviously, I’m going to recommend Practice Plan. Hands down.”