As part of the recently announced contract reform engagement exercise, the Government has confirmed there would be no additional budget for the NHS, despite the continuing intention to provide a higher quality service to a wider percentage of the population. Squaring that circle will be a challenge and it’s not surprising that anxiety about the future will grow among NHS dentists. It’s no wonder then that a growing number are beginning the search for less dependence on the NHS and will feel more able to consider the merits of a life in a largely private practice.
With so many friends and local colleagues already making the step and, having weathered the economic storms of the past few years, look set for a bright future, the appeal of a private practice looks set to grow. Indeed, if given a ‘magic wand’ guarantee of a successful move towards independence from the NHS, many would make the move without hesitation. What stops dentists making this decision? Reasons can be varied, but ultimately come down to the perceived risk too many patients will be lost in the transition.
But how many is too many?
The reality is that many practices discover, through a financial analysis and risk assessment, that it’s possible to lose a bigger proportion than they thought while still maintaining the levels of profitability seen under the NHS. What’s more, the move to private dentistry brings a number of additional benefits to dentists, such as reduced stress and the opportunity to carry out more rewarding treatments.
I must stress though, that when considering the move from NHS to private, it’s essential that professional advice is sought from experts who will be able to help you assess your options and evaluate the range of factors that will determine whether the move to private is right for you. This process will include looking at the aspirations of the owners, assessing the ‘private’ potential of the practice’s demographics, and crunching the financials to see if they stack up.
While there are no guarantees, in most cases the risks can be mitigated through appropriate actions. For example, a large percentage of dentists looking for less dependence on the NHS choose to aid patient retention through a patient membership plan when going private.
From the patients’ point of view, a plan provides a tangible option for them to access their on-going preventive care and brings a number of benefits including the ability to spread the cost of their private dentistry into manageable chunks.
From the practice owners’ perspective, as well as shoring up patient loyalty, a plan provides a way of generating a stable and predictable income that evens out the peaks and troughs many other businesses have to deal with. Although it will be a long way off, a plan builds confidence in the sustainability and profitability of the practice that will enhance its goodwill valuation when the time to move on or retire arrives.
Other mitigation that can be put in place includes the creation and execution of a strategy of team training and patient communications, as well as the involvement of other key stakeholders like your plan provider.
However, the first step remains the decision to investigate the possibilities and the viability of conversion to private care given your circumstances. This investigative stage is risk free and it will ultimately be up to you whether the information you gather gives you the confidence to press the start button now, later or never. With nothing to lose and so much potential from such investigations, assessing your options in these times for the NHS will only grow in relevance.
If you would like to get some honest, impartial and free advice on the viability of your practice making the move to gain independence from NHS to private care, please get in touch with Practice Plan on 01691 684120 or visit www.practiceplan.co.uk.