In the latest in our blog series about why people maintain long-standing relationships with Practice Plan, Suki Singh speaks to John Hume-Spry, Principal Dentist and owner of Delph Dental in Derbyshire, to find out more about his association with Practice Plan.
SS: You’ve been with Practice Plan for a very long time, John. Tell us more about how you came to be a Practice Plan customer.
JHS: We first got in touch with Practice Plan in about 2005, so before the last new contract. We wanted to look into our options for the future of the practice, because even back then we were sceptical that being completely reliant on the NHS was the right thing for the practice.
We talked to both Practice Plan and Denplan and really felt that the Practice Plan model was more appropriate for us at that point in time. So, we met with Josie who’s still our Regional Support Manager now and felt that it was the right fit for us, and then moved on from there.
At the time we weren’t just concerned about the financial implications of leaving the NHS but also the ethical worries. You feel that you’re abandoning patients, that you’re pulling away from a system that people have a lot of faith in. It’s a powerful brand emotionally isn’t it, the NHS?
But we didn’t step away from it completely. We kept a children and exempt contract which we still have now. We felt we would get the right kind of support and in a way, that chimed with us really. We had good reasons for making the move which would be beneficial for patients too and not just for ourselves.
I think that having the whole team on board is really key. I know that’s something that you see in the Practice Plan marketing literature, but it is true really, because it’s quite a daunting step to take. It was for us. But we felt that we would get the right kind of support, which we did.
It’s something I certainly don’t regret. And the support’s been ongoing as well. Josie’s been brilliant over the years. We view her as a friend. I’m not just saying that as a throwaway comment as she has been there for us, and we do get the support that we need. She really knows what she’s doing. And that ongoing support is really important.
SS: You mention the support you’ve had from Josie. What other types of support have you received from Practice Plan?
JHS: So, when we have new members of staff joining the team we’re able to get training for them, either in person or through an online platform. We’ve had consultancies which are very helpful too. We’ve had a range of people. But the nice thing about the consultancies is that they’re at no direct cost to us. And if you get a couple of little gems out of it, then that’s helpful.
SS: So, you chose Practice Plan all those years ago. In the interim you could have moved. There are a number of players who’ve come onto the market since then, what keeps you with Practice Plan?
JHS: This is not a backhanded compliment to Practice Plan at all but if you found a system that works, why would you change it? I think if you find a company that you work well with, it would take quite a lot to make you want to change that.
But also, we are really happy with the support that we get. Whether that’s support from Josie or ringing up the office, everyone’s very helpful, tries to support you, comes back to you with answers if they can’t get one straight away. Just really what you’d expect and the kind of service that we want to be providing for our own patients as well. So, you feel that you’re working as a team and that goes a long way. Those are probably the main aspects.
The consultancies are a nice thing to have. And there’s the Workshop Tour. We go to that every year. We always look out for that and we’d always book in because it fills up very quickly. So, we always try to get one of the venues that’s close by to us.
The event days and the study days, such as the shorter courses, again are all very helpful. It’s good to have events that you can take team members to that cover the soft skills, not the clinical skills, because there’s not a lot of places where you can do dental specific courses like that. So, it is great to have those things to access and often they’re either at no cost or they’re very good value. So that’s a nice thing to have.
There’s also the Practice Plan Club Weekend. That is absolutely brilliant. We’ve only been twice, because of the timing of our family coming along, with the three kids that’s made it difficult. However, we did go last year for the first time in a long, long time and it was brilliant.
That’s a lovely bonus, but not the main reason why we would stay with Practice Plan. For me, it’s more the day to day, week to week support. That’s really the key to making us happy clients of Practice Plan. And there was all the extra support during COVID. So, it’s little things like that where you feel that people are trying to help you and it’s in everyone’s interest for us all to pitch in. So, it’s good to feel that a company is there for you in difficult times as well.
SS: If someone were considering looking for a plan provider at the moment, what would you say to recommend Practice Plan to them?
JHS: I think there’s a wealth of experience at Practice Plan, both as a company and as the individual RSMs. They’ve been around for a good while, have a good track record and really know what they’re doing.
I think there’s the right kind of support there to support you through the process of introducing a plan, and I’d say you do need that. We’ve always been happy with our dealings with Practice Plan as well. If we’ve asked for anything, it’s happened.
I find the fees reasonable as well. I know that Practice Plan have to take that amount of money for the admin fees, but I think it’s money well spent. We really wouldn’t want to have to administer a substantial number of Direct Debits ourselves. And then the other add-ons such as the Worldwide Dental Emergency Assistance Scheme. That’s a good thing to have as well. And I’d say the extra add-ons such as the workshop tours and the consultancies as well can be useful for you as a business. Also, when people come to us on a consultancy appointment, even though they’ve been paid for by Practice Plan, they’re not just banging a drum. We get honest and useful support from that.
SS: Finally, John, if you had to describe Practice Plan in five words, what would they be?
JHS: I think: reliable, dependable, trustworthy, knowledgeable and supportive.
SS: Thanks, John. We look forward to the next 16 years of having you as a customer.