Most dentists considering a move from the NHS to private dentistry do so because their current situation has become unworkable, so they are looking to move away from the financial and time pressures they face every day. It stands to reason then that they focus on this ‘moving away from a stressful situation’ rather than visualising and focusing on what they are moving towards.
The ultimate benefit of converting to private practice is taking back control, control of what types of treatments you offer, how much to charge, how many patients you see, how long you spend with them… and the list goes on. This vision of the future can be difficult to construct when you are focused on moving away from a current pain, so, what can a move to private look like for you?
A calmer, more relaxed working environment
Many dentists tell us that the main factors in deciding to convert to private practice are twofold. Firstly, they are unable to find a suitable work/life balance due to the pressures associated with meeting UDA targets; and secondly, feeling that they are potentially compromising the standard of care they offer in an attempt to meet these targets. As a result, a stressful working environment can ensue where the entire practice feels like it’s working on a conveyer belt just to get through the working day! They don’t take home a sense of job satisfaction because they don’t get the time they want with their patients, nor do they carry out the treatments they would like to. This feeling is certainly supported by a study from the BDA revealing that stress in the dental profession is on the rise, while job satisfaction is in decline*.
What private practice can offer is an environment where you call more of the shots, an environment where you’re in more control of how much time you and your team spend with each patient and the type of care you offer. You can determine how many patients you see, how often you’d recommend they return for recall visits and how long you need to spend with them at each visit without concerns about missing activity requirements and risking a potential clawback. What’s more, in most cases it should still be possible to achieve the level of income needed to support you and your practice and preserve some of the financial security you get from an NHS contract – especially if you set up a patient membership plan. A patient membership plan will knit your patients to your practice and will also provide you with a regular and consistent cash flow.
Additionally, dentists who have converted also say that this new, much calmer, more proactive and relaxed environment increases morale in the practice and gives team members a greater sense of job satisfaction. This more positive feeling spreads to their patients who, in turn, become happier attending the practice and feel more cared for. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But that’s just the start!
Greater clinical freedom
The demand for the perfect smile means that cosmetic dentistry is growing and is set to grow further. This is evidenced by Britain’s top 100 dentists turning over almost £1 billion in 2014, a rise of 22% since 2010, and the prediction that cosmetic dentistry will be worth £3.6 billion by the end of this year.
This provides the dental industry with a perfect opportunity to increase the amount and type of cosmetic treatments on offer, which can be more difficult when working in the confines of the NHS.
Many dentists have taken advantage of this growth through either growing their private patient base or converting from the NHS. They report that this greater clinical freedom has increased their revenue and added variety to the work they carry out. They have also seen an increase in their treatment uptake by having more to offer their patients and allocating the time to fully explain the treatment options.
This has also meant that they have felt able to take on more challenging work, felt they had more freedom to choose the types of materials they use and, ultimately, gained greater job satisfaction by carrying out the type, level and standard of work they always wanted to.
Increased income and more motivated patients
Although research suggests there is little difference between the income of NHS and private dentists, it’s generally acknowledged that private practice offers a higher earning potential than those in the NHS. However, for many, simply being able to maintain income requirements whilst seeing fewer patients is the primary goal. It sounds like the Holy Grail, but fewer patients means more time per patient and potentially stronger relationships. It follows that you may feel able to create an environment where you can explore patients’ concerns more deeply and offer a wider range of potential solutions including higher-value treatments. Most patients will appreciate the added value that comes with attending a private practice and, usually, more than enough are prepared to pay a little more for the benefit of having their trusted clinician delivering care in such a way
So, approached in the right way, converting to private practice can maintain or even increase your income, and what’s more, patients attending private practices are usually more invested in their oral health and so are more motivated in keeping this going in-between visits. This means they will be more focused on prevention and research suggests patients on a membership plan are more likely to attend at the frequency that you think is appropriate. All this leads to more dentally aware patients who have a foundation of good oral health and are open to considering additional treatments to perfect their smile.
Changing the status quo
Whilst the benefits of private practice are well proven, most dentists 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 has the expertise and experience in guiding dentists and dental teams through what is often the biggest business decision they’re ever to make. We have years of experience in helping practices, just like yours, to home in on the important areas to consider when evaluating if a move is right for them. What’s more, we have also brought together a number of proven and experienced industry experts in these key areas in our 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 and how to make a successful conversion, should it be right for you.
To see if your future could look brighter by converting to private practice, call us on 01691 684165 or visit the Practice Plan website.
Thinking of moving to private dentistry? Get your FREE guide to leaving the NHS.
* www.bda.co.uk – ‘BDA: putting the profession’s wellbeing at the forefront’.