The large number of NHS dentists making the switch to private dentistry is something none of us working in the sector will have missed.
While many dentists are understandably keen to continue the great service they have delivered for their community through the NHS, it’s just been reported that 1,000 dentists quit their NHS contracts in England and Wales last year.
This quick read blog overviews why this happened, looks at the pros and cons of changing to private dentistry and includes advice for dentists who have decided that a switchover is the best choice for their practice.
Read on for an overview of the current debate…
Moving from NHS to Private Dentistry: The Switchover Trend
The contribution made to society by NHS dentistry, a national institution, has never been clearer than during the Covid era.
The reason for this is simple: NHS dentists have worked through constant uncertainty, stringent restrictions and rising patient demand backlogs to provide care for patients. Therefore it’s clear that without NHS dentistry the UK’s oral health would be in a significantly worse position.
For decades going right back to the 1940s, NHS dentists have created outstanding levels of public engagement with their oral health. This is not least because many patients find it hugely reassuring to know that essential dental care is available simply and easily as a service to society.
However, there’s no doubt that working through the Covid crisis has also made a number of dentists consider their future practice plans, about the kind of practice they want to have, how patients will access their services and the degree to which they want to be restricted by the limitations of NHS dentistry.
In particular, some dentists feel that a lack of support early in the pandemic plus increasingly unfavourable NHS contract terms make being entirely within the NHS system less and less attractive.
Meanwhile due to a great deal of patient demand, as many patients catch up on dental treatments they missed during the lockdown, 2022 has become a time when patient appreciation for their dentist and their dentist’s judgement around what is best for their care has never been greater.
The result? Due to a combination of factors, some dentists are considering whether 2022 is the moment to switch to the practice they have always wanted to own in terms of their own control over their work and practice.
There’s no doubt that for some dentists, especially those who’ve had plans for major practice changes for some time, the recent and ongoing difficulties in NHS dentistry have brought urgency to their switchover decision.
Moving from NHS to Private Dentistry: Why Switch?
We’ve mentioned that a dentist may have a desire to bring more independence to their practice through a switchover. This independence also means reduced regulation, i.e. less external influence shaping how the practice is operated.
Additional reasons in support of a change to private dentistry include:
A fixed cost for patients:
By adopting a dental care plan such as Denplan, regular check-ups are already paid for and high levels of attendance are likely to be seen with the unplanned cost of an appointment removed,
Increased financial certainty:
Fewer decisions, such as NHS contract decisions impacting the practice, are made externally.
A budget to shape a practice:
dentists may want to use the opportunity to improve the practice itself thanks to a predictable income delivered by dental plan payments without the unpredictability of external NHS influence.
However, the concerns a dentist might have about going private include factors surrounding the need to make the right ethical decision for their patients and their care.
Some ‘cons’ to consider can, therefore, include:
Doing the right thing:
Does the decision deliver better care for the patient and their needs?
Will patients support the decision?
How will colleagues feel about the change to private dentistry? Ultimately, the steps to weighing up these considerations centre around two things:
Assessing patient care under both structures, and
If an opportunity is taken to move to private practice, patients will benefit from any enhancements introduced by a dentist as a result of gaining more control over the service they can deliver.
In short: Weighing up a switchover decision should involve engaging with colleagues and – if a decision to go private is made – communicating the move, and its benefits, to patients clearly and positively to actively address any concerns.
Moving from NHS to Private Dentistry: A Recommendation
Many dentists who do go ahead with a switchover will want to take a ‘deep dive’ into their practice aesthetic and patient experience as part of their post-NHS practice management, marketing and sustainability plans.
In the experience of the Global Dental team, a group of practice development specialists who have been proud to support both NHS and private dentists for many years, doing so is highly recommended as a window to achieve the best possible benefit from a new look occurs during the switchover period.
In our experience there are three compelling reasons to refresh the appearance of a practice while going private: 1. An upgraded experience:
A more premium patient experience is a great way to mark the switchover for patients and will help put the change in the context of a more relaxing, pleasant and modern place to be.
2. Sustainability benefits:
A bespoke redesign, and even state of the art new equipment, means a chance to make the practice a healthier and more ergonomically appropriate workplace in the long-term as well as an overall more efficient operation.
3. Opportune timing:
A new look practice sits extremely well alongside plans for relaunch marketing and can all be coordinated into a single timeline for maximum impact on demand and client satisfaction.
This entire ethos is often summarised by Global Dental as creating “a reassuring environment for patients, a place where colleagues can do their best work”.
What does this look like? Go behind the scenes of practices where high-end design values, involving the use of light, colour, scale and texture, have been used to create a calm and supportive experience for visitors here.
Our advice for dentists thinking about moving away from the NHS is very clear: use the opportunity to reimagine every aspect of how colleagues and patients experience the practice and use this to enhance practice relaunch plans alongside the switch to private care.
For example: Design:
Why not look to the places where patients are at their most relaxed? A practice can remind patients of their favourite hotel or high-end spa as modern design values can be used to move away from a cold, medical environment.
Efficiency: A review of the equipment being used, in terms of ease of use and how it helps with patient flow and comfort as well as the services offered, should be carried out when considering a move to private dentistry.
Rethinking a practice brand can be very timely ahead of a switchover and especially if a practice refurbishment is being carried out too. This is because the introduction of things like new uniforms, signage and logo designs can be combined with relaunch marketing materials to communicate a single clear message. This creates a ‘wow factor’ for patients, and would-be patients, as well as marking the next chapter in the practice identity.
The switchover from NHS to private dentistry means the ideal time to walk through every step of a patient’s experience – from signage to practice design to choice of equipment – to seek improvements. Plus practical reasons including switchover marketing make it a perfect time to redesign and relaunch.
Moving from NHS to Private Dentistry: How Global Dental Can Help
Global Dental has been helping dentists make their practice growth – or practice change – plans happen for over two decades. Their team does this through consulting, bespoke design and fit-out management as well as equipment supply and maintenance.
In short, dentists bring Global Dental their plan for practice growth and a team of advisors, designers, project managers and equipment specialists make their dream practice happen.
This specialist service includes:
Practice planning including a consultation with practice growth specialist Ryan Devenish plus initial design visuals.
Complete refurbishment project management:
Including building control etc support, management of contractors on-site, equipment sourcing and fitting plus dental industry certifications.
A partner for success: Global Dental clients can rely on our team for advice, equipment and consumables, rapid-response repairs and routine maintenance.
Questions? Simply contact us to find out more or discuss your practice growth plans. We’re here to help.