Articles, Dentistry

Considerations when going private

The enhanced opportunities available through offering private dental care to patients often encourages practitioners to move away from NHS dentistry. Indeed the switch to private provision from an NHS contract may seem like a sure-fire way of increasing your income, but as with any major decision, there are advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed up before taking the final leap, as there are significant financial implications of moving to private dentistry from NHS.

The current economic climate will always be a contributing factor to any such decision and the uncertainty caused by the recent financial decline undoubtedly caused a downturn in optimism across many industries, dentistry included. However, as the fog of recession starts to clear, it is possible to begin seeing positive changes developing within the profession, with more and more dentists seeing patients wanting more private work. 

Higher earning potential

Of course, with private practice comes the potential to earn considerably more money, and that potential looks set to grow further over the coming years. In 2013, a report published by Mintel forecasted strong growth in the industry, spurred on by the economic recovery. The report suggested that increased disposable income would lead to more patients seeking out private care, creating substantial growth in the profession by 2017 and 2018 (Mintel, 2013).

However, with a private practice a lot depends on your marketing and the demand locally for private care. There is, of course, no guaranteed contract or income with private practice, and it can be potentially more difficult to get the patients through the door. It is important to ask: ‘Will the area support private dentistry? And will my existing patients want to change?’ Furthermore you will have to address the widespread misconception among the general public that private dental fees are beyond the means of those on low or middle incomes. It is paramount that dentists looking to either convert to private work, or increase their private book, work with professionals that can guide them in the right direction.

More time with your patients

A significant advantage to private dentistry that your patients will see is the longer amount of time you are able to spend on each appointment due to the lack of UDA (units of dental activity) commitments and contract deadlines. This will enable you to spend more time detailing and explaining treatment plans and will raise confidence and trust in your patients. 

Furthermore, the patients that you are likely to see are more liable to be open to specialist treatments or cosmetically focused procedures, which will further help to increase your practice profits. Ultimately as a private dentist you will be seeing fewer patients, but they will be after more care.

Loss of NHS benefits

Although a private practice’s earning potential is significantly higher, a dentist must consider the ramifications to their own personal finances and future pecuniary situation. By going private you would no longer be entitled to the NHS Pension scheme, maternity pay or death benefits. The loss of access to these schemes will have implications for the future, so these additional costs need to be taken into consideration when making the move to offering private dental care.  

The risks of conversion can be greatly reduced by working with an established dental plan provider like DPAS, as plans can offer consistent revenue streams, as well as the opportunity for forward financial planning. Patients will be able to budget for private care through monthly payments and will therefore attend regularly, offering plenty of opportunities to recommend further treatments.  

More practice control

Becoming a private dentist could lead to increased opportunities for expansion into specialised clinical areas, ie orthodontics, implants or endodontics. Indeed one of the most attractive aspects to private dentistry is the enhanced control of your practice that you will enjoy. You will be able to decide for yourself the amount of patients you need to see, and the fees you will charge.

You will no longer be bound by UDAs or contract deadlines and there will be no more unwanted clawbacks. Indeed the lack of NHS or Government paperwork and bureaucracy will allow you to more appropriately manage your own time and this benefit can then be passed on to your patients through the advantages of an enhanced workflow. 

Although any decision to switch from NHS to private will always be down to the individual principal, a comprehensive, professional assessment is essential and this is best provided through an industry experienced independent financial adviser (IFA). They will be able to advise on the most suitable outcomes for your practice when looking into the provision of private dentistry, including considerations around incorporation, which can significantly reduce your tax bill, and ensure that you have the correct level of income protection. 

Reference

Mintel (2013) Dentistry (Industrial Report) – UK. [Online] Available: http://oxygen.mintel.com/display/665455/ [Accessed 12 June 2014].

Money4dentists is one of the most respected names in dentistry and has successfully guided many practices through the process of converting to private practice as well as offering advice on other personal and professional money matters. Contact the experienced team of experts today and find out if a move into private practice is financially right for you. For more information please call 0845 345 5060, email info@money4dentists.com or visit www.money4dentists.com.

As a founding partner of the UK’s leading specialist dental independent financial advisory firm, Richard Lishman has over 20 years’ experience helping dentists achieve their financial and business goals, focusing on financial advice rather than financial products. Richard guides dentists along the ever-changing path to financial freedom and looks at financial planning in a straightforward way without the usual jargon.

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