Chris Barrow weighs up the good news and bad news hitting the profession.

I returned from my recent sailing holiday (and wedding) to discover that more of my friends and clients in both NHS and private dentistry have decided to sell their practices.

Recent history around the ‘distress’ of maintaining compliance standards, competitive edge and personal confidence is now being superseded by the unavoidable conclusion that goodwill values are so high in both sectors that it’s time to take the money and tiptoe away, even if the owner doesn’t need to.

Equally, on my return I’m witnessing further reductions, not just in the advertised pay scales for associates, but also a new world of imposed pay cuts.

Bad news week

‘Market conditions, buddy’, I heard one principal explain to a bewildered mid-30-year-old whose 45% had just become 40%.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Shortly after unpacking I sat down to wade through my back copies of this esteemed publication and read little to lighten the gloom.

Debates on the shape of the next round of contract changes, the excruciatingly slow humanisation of the GDC and its processes, speculation on the future of the healthcare sector overall.

It’s enough to send a man back to sea.

After a few days of gloom in my office I finally realised how to raise this grey cloud base and break through into the sunlight.

I got myself back on the road again – dentistry’s busiest train warrior – with five days of travel and meetings before I vanish once more, this time into the Omani desert for a
three-week expedition.

Silver linings

During my week of travel, here’s what my clients told me:

  • Business is booming
  • Digital dentistry is booming
  • Higher value treatment is booming
  • Innovation in marketing is booming
  • Word of mouth referrals are booming
  • Social media marketing is booming
  • As corporate and retail dentistry spreads like untreated garden weeds and as private equity arrives in greater numbers (looking to make a quick buck), the opportunity for positive differentiation in the independent sector is better than ever
  • There are patients out there who want a business class experience and are ready to pay for it
  • There are clinicians, managers, and team members out there who want to succeed and accept the economic reality
  • There are owners out there who want to achieve the correct balance between profit and ethics.

Thank goodness – for a day or two there I was starting to believe everything I read in the newspapers.

I’ll be back in a few weeks to see what has happened.