9 Sep 2019  •  Blog, NHS  •  7min read

Your dentistry questions answered: leaving the NHS

Leaving the NHS is a big change and becoming private, more often than not, feels like so much more than just shifting your business model. I know from years spent talking to dentists that it is a decision many spend a lot of time thinking about, and can be an emotional one as well.

And statistics from surveys by organisations such as the BDA and Practice Plan, also suggest that this is the case. The BDA survey in 2017 showed that 53% of young dentists intend on leaving the NHS in the next five years and of those, 42% plan on refocusing on private dentistry. While Practice Plan’s Confidence Monitor survey in 2018 showed that 86% of NHS dentists don’t see themselves in the NHS in five years and of those, 48% plan on moving to private dentistry.

Once you have made that decision, undoubtedly the next consideration is how you will actually begin making it happen. As the Sales Manager of Practice Plan, I have helped hundreds of dentists make the move.

I know that once you have reached the point where you have decided that the NHS is no longer where you see your career heading, it is time to do some digging, and, yes, that involves some number crunching, to figure out what your new future looks like.

It is worthwhile to seek external advice about this. For example, you could speak to fellow dentists who have already made the transition.

If you don’t know any personally, then online forums and social media groups could also be a good source of information. Hearing the experiences and stories of those who have gone before you is always helpful when it comes to selecting what approach you want to take.

And there can be several different ways of doing something like moving to private dentistry. Just one of the considerations is whether you want to/can move to completely private immediately. Or it could be that just the principal moving to private, with the associates delivering the NHS treatment makes more sense for your practice. And that could be as a transitional step to eventually moving fully private or the goal in itself.

“Hearing the experiences and stories of those who have gone before you is always helpful when it comes to selecting what approach you want to take.”

This is the detail that needs to be worked out once you have decided to leave the NHS, which will help to ensure it is a successful, smooth transition for everybody – your patients, your team and you.

One of the things I often hear dentists saying is that they want to move away from NHS dentistry and towards private due to, at least in part, the lack of time they feel they have to spend with patients, complete the required admin and run their practice.

While moving away from the NHS does require some initial investment of time and resources, it is worth it in the long run. And you can mitigate this by bringing in some outside help to carry out some of the legwork involved.

“While moving away from the NHS does require some initial investment of time and resources, it is worth it in the long run.”

This support is one of the reasons many dentists choose to implement a patient membership plan alongside other benefits such as the security of having a guaranteed monthly income. And, of course, with the right provider, that assistance should be ongoing.

Having that external advisor will be a source of experience and knowledge to guide you through those next steps that follow making the decision to leave the NHS and move to private. These include:

  1. A review of your unique circumstances. Factors such as the demographic of your patient base, the NHS provision in your local area and the make-up and motivation of your team, will all have a bearing on what the best course of action is for you specifically. An external guide can help you to sift through the elements you need to consider and prioritise accordingly.
  2. Figure out the financials. You will need to work out what the appropriate fees are for your private treatment to enable you to be profitable and sustainable, and help you to achieve your particular vision for the practice.
  3. Creating a timeline. It may be that you want to move to private immediately and go for a ‘big bang’ approach. Or perhaps a gradual, phased approach over several months feels more appropriate. You want to move at a pace that suits you and your business, so thinking about the date by which you want to have completed the transition is wise.
  4. Communicating with your team. You may have made the decision to move to private dentistry, but your team need to be fully behind it – especially as your front desk staff will probably be handling enquiries and questions. So, there needs to be some discussion about why you are moving to private and the benefits for patients, the business and your team, and a chance to address any concerns they may have.        
  5. Communicating with your patients. Telling your patients about the change is key to making it as smooth and successful as possible. The timeline you choose will have an impact on this. If you are taking a more gradual approach, this will affect whether it makes more sense to tell your patients about your move to private, by letter and/or face-to-face at an appointment. You also need to consider what you will tell your patients, which brings me onto my final point.   
  6. The need for training. Some patients may well have questions about what this means for them, and its worthwhile spending time as a team thinking about common queries to expect and planning how you will answer them confidently and positively. If you do choose to implement a membership plan, it is important to understand how it works, the benefits for patients and the different options, should you have different levels.

These are the six main points to begin thinking about once you have taken that important decision to move fully or partially private. There is some investment of time, but utilising the expertise of an external third party and implementing a plan can spread the load and help to make your decision a reality.

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