Gary Nelson, Regional Support Manager, gives advice around how to answer difficult questions from frustrated patients…
I am seeing and hearing a lot of confused and frustrated patients on the NHS at the moment, and they’re asking questions like, ‘why won’t my dentist see me?’, ‘why can’t I get a check-up?’, and ‘it’s six months until I can get an appointment, but I can get a private one in three weeks, how?’.
As the current guidelines rumble on and on, these issues are likely to lead to enhanced frustrations and, in several cases, anger that your reception teams may well be bearing the brunt of.
To help, I thought I would put together some phrases and answers that may help you and your teams. A lot of the time it’s about offering solutions and not saying what you can’t offer, simply what you can.
It is also about patient screening as quickly as possible and answering the question ‘is this patient suitable for you and your practice?’, without a half-hour conversation on the phone.
I’ve pieced together my responses to some tough questions, from what I’ve picked up when talking to practices over recent months.
Are you taking on NHS patients?
We, like many practices in the area, are an independent practice, offering limited sessions under the NHS system. These sessions are limited due to funding and are heavily booked ahead. We can offer you independent options for your care if that is something that would be of interest? The majority of our patients choose independent care, and we have a membership plan that rewards regular attendance with lower pricing as a benefit.
We are an independent dental practice and choose not to provide adult care under the NHS system, because being independent allows us the freedom to offer patients the greatest choice of up-to-date dental care materials and solutions.
We currently have a limited number of new patient appointments each week if that is something that’s of interest to you?
What is the different between the NHS and independent?
The independent system of care allows us the best choice of materials and dental laboratories, which ultimately will provide patients with the longest lasting solution to dental issues. It also allows us to allocate the correct amount of time with every patient to achieve the best outcomes.
Independent care is focused around preventing dental problems and ultimately preventing the need for treatments. We do this by spending increased time with patients and through our hygiene care, which is tailored to each person. Most of our patients move into our membership system which also offers members lower pricing as a benefit.
Why can’t I get an NHS appointment, but you can offer me a private one within the next few weeks?
We are able to offer independent appointments reasonably quickly in the current situation as we are independently funded and don’t rely on the NHS system. We choose to provide a different care package to the many patients who choose us.
We are essentially an independent practice offering limited NHS appointments, which are heavily booked in the months ahead. Most of our patients have chosen the independent route for their care due to choice and ease of appointments.
Is it all about making more money out of patients?
This is all about providing the best possible care to those patients who want just that. Dental solutions and materials have changed so much over the years, and we find that being independent of the NHS allows us the greatest choice of solutions for our patients. It is all about doing what is best for our patients.
We can only provide care to a limited number of patients; we simply cannot provide care to everyone. To provide solutions in the medium to longer term, we have chosen the independent care route and we have many patients who are seeing the benefits.
The confusion and frustration in the marketplace at present are all down to communication and patient understanding; however, with the right words at the right time, you and your practice can undoubtedly gain many new patients in the coming months ahead.