privateDental practices looking to move from NHS to private treatments are being advised to warn patients of their plans.

The warnings come after a recent survey that revealed around 60% of UK dentists working under the NHS were planning to go private in the next five years.

‘Patients should be provided with at least six-month’s notice, agreed with the primary care organisation,’ Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, senior dento-legal adviser at the DDU, says.

‘This should give patients enough time to adjust and will mean any NHS-funded courses of treatment can be completed.

‘If possible, give patients the news face-to-face when they attend for a routine appointment.

‘Most will appreciate the chance to discuss their future dental care in person.

‘Follow this up with a letter explaining the changes at the practice to all patients.’

A plan for moving to private

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has put together a plan for dentists looking to stop offering NHS treatments.

It advises:

  • Ensure staff are briefed on the plans so they can answer patients’ questions accurately and consistently
  • Give patients advance warning of your decision. Don’t tell patients on arrival at the dentist that they have to pay for private treatment or pressurise them to accept
  • When explaining your reasons for going private to patients, steer clear of any comments that could be seen to denigrate the NHS
  • If a patient decides to move to another NHS dentist, their dental records should be retained by your practice and stored securely
  • Record the point at which patients cease to be an NHS patient in their dental record. It should be clear which treatment plans were completed under the NHS and which were carried out privately
  • Any NHS branding must be removed from your practice signage, website and literature.

‘If possible, include an outline of private consultation fees and information about any private treatment payment plans on offer,’ Rupert Hoppenbrouwers continues.

‘Provide details of how patients can find and transfer to another NHS practice, for example by giving details of the local NHS primary care organisation or directing them to the NHS Choices website.

‘This will demonstrate that every effort has been made to keep patients informed, which may help in the event of a complaint.’