Karan Rishi shares his experience of introducing private treatment into his NHS practice.
Our practice is based in a working-class area of Bradford, so affordability is important to our patients and we will always offer an NHS service to meet that demand. However, managing my NHS patient list left little time to focus on growing the business, which was a key area I wanted to focus on after acquiring the practice.
There was also a need to increase turnover and profitability to help service the bank loans and necessary refurbishments. The combination of these factors, plus the stagnation of NHS funding, meant that myself and another dentist moving to private – whilst providing an NHS service through our associates – was the best way forward.
Even so we had some concerns as making the conversion to a mixed practice adds to the workload of not just ourselves and the other dentists, but also the entire team. We chose to implement a practice-branded membership plan from Practice Plan as it would help to build the connection between patients and our practice, and so smooth the transition, and it’s more likely that patients on a plan, compared to those paying as they go, will attend appointments.
Heading in the right direction
It was crucial to ensure everyone in the practice was behind the move and could understand why we were heading in this direction and the benefits it would bring to the business, staff and patients. Our regional support manager from Practice Plan, Suki Singh, came into the practice and discussed with the whole team how moving to a more mixed practice would provide funds for additional staff, reduce workload, and enhance the patients’ experience.
We took a staged, individual approach to inform each affected patient about the change. The result was that we were able to easily attract enough private patients to work part-time, which was very important as it enabled me to spend those non-clinical hours working on business development.
It can be challenging to manage this kind of business model. However, the benefits of offering both NHS and private services within one practice are well worth it. We can continue treating those patients that are committed to the NHS but still add to our range of treatments through the private offering.
I have found that the clinical experience has improved for patients and myself. I now have more control over appointments and am able to spend more time with patients, which means we can have more meaningful conversations about them and their dental health. There is more time to discover what they want to achieve from their visits to our practice and they are more likely to not only opt for elective treatments, but also to proactively ask for them.
A win-win situation
The great feedback and responses I’ve had by carrying out work that has impacted them so positively is fantastic. Working in this way feels much more rewarding as well as I can now dedicate time to developing the practice, and when I am carrying out clinical work I am treating people who value my expertise and want to see me, as they chose to move to a private basis with me.
Moving to a mixed practice has been a win-win situation. Our clinical care has been enhanced through a wider treatment offering and reduced time pressures, so both the patients’ experience and our job satisfaction have improved. But it has also fulfilled one of the main purpose of adding a private offering to our services by freeing up more time to concentrate on business development, and we have big plans to continue expanding and thriving.
Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded patient membership plans and partners with over 1,500 dental practices and supports hundreds of practices to make the move from NHS to private. If you are looking to gain more independence from the NHS, call 01691 684165 or visit nhs.practiceplan.co.uk.