With a growing number of dentists looking to move into offering private treatments, Dentistry caught up with Nyree Whitley to see if a new approach to affordable private dentistry could be the solution
Dentistry: Do you think morale in dentistry is low right now?
Nyree Whitley (NW): I’ve been a dentist for more than 20 years and there’s no doubt morale across the sector is low right now. For many dentists, the NHS contract in England and Wales feels very restrictive and, at times, like a bit of a hamster wheel. And that’s why we’re seeing stress levels rising among clinicians, which is really serious.
The obvious solution for a lot of dentists is to try and rebalance their workload towards more private, which is why, across the country – and particularly in those hard to recruit areas in rural and more remote coastal communities – it is a real challenge for patients to get access to NHS dentistry.
DM: What impact is this having on patients?
NW: It’s crucial all families can get access to good oral healthcare, irrespective of how much they earn. Right now, far too many patients are finding it difficult to do that.
Even where patients can be seen on the NHS, we’re currently seeing patient charges going up by 5% every year. For patients whose only choice is going private, it can simply be out of reach.
We are storing up problems for the future and there is a real risk of a growing number of patients having unmet needs that will deteriorate over the coming years: in addition to being terrible for patients, these problems will be much more expensive to fix later.
That’s why we need a solution now that offers a genuinely affordable alternative for patients who aren’t being served by the current system.
DM: Tell us a bit more about Myoptions
NW: Myoptions genuinely provides outstanding private dentistry for patients at a price that is affordable.
It is deliberately simple: when it is fully rolled out, it will cover all treatments in all parts of the country, offering fixed, transparent and affordable prices for private dentistry and a financing option to ensure it is suitable for more people than ever.
Over the last few months we have been piloting it in 20 practices to hear from our clinicians about how best to make this work. So far, it has been very popular with both our patients and our dentists.
DM: What has the reaction been like?
NW: The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. In just a couple of months, more than 2,000 patients have benefitted, including many who haven’t been to the dentist in years. On average, around 10 new patients per week are moving to Myoptions in every practice where it has launched, so we know there is real demand out there.
For our clinicians, Myoptions provides that first step into growing private, with all the support and advice a big provider can give. The simple, transparent pricing has helped dentists have the confidence to talk to patients about the treatments on offer and the fee-per-item model of payment is a much fairer way of recognising their work.
I wish Myoptions had been around when I first qualified – it really is the best of both worlds. It gives patients access to the care they need, and it helps our clinicians build the careers they want. No one else is offering anything like this, on this scale.
DM: What difference does this make for clinicians wanting to grow their dental careers?
NW: We know a growing number of clinicians want to find a better balance between their NHS and private work. But in the current system, it isn’t always that easy.
Some dentists – for example, those who are earlier on in their careers – aren’t always certain how best to start growing private and how to have the right conversations with patients.
That’s what is so great about Myoptions. It provides a springboard into private for clinicians at all stages of their careers.
If you don’t know how to talk to patients about pricing, Myoptions takes the stress out of it by having clear, fixed and transparent prices that have been tested with patients across the country.
If you’re nervous about how to market yourself and make sure patients know about what is on offer, we can help with a central marketing team and the clinical support you need to get started.
DM: What other opportunities are available for clinicians wanting to grow their dental careers at Mydentist?
NW: We want Mydentist to be the best place in the UK to grow a dental career. I’d be the first to admit that hasn’t always been the case in the past and we haven’t always got things right. But things are changing fast, and we are listening to our clinicians and acting on their feedback.
One of the most common things dentists say to me is they want to be able to build the right career for them – whether that is in the NHS, developing a specialism, or moving into private treatment. We want to help clinicians to do that.
One of the benefits of working for a big provider is the support structures. We have around 50 clinicians in leadership positions across the country who are offering advice and support to dentists and orthodontists wanting to grow their careers.
We also have the Mydentist Academy, which is offering some of the best training and development courses on the market. We are also using our scale and network to open up other opportunities for dentists; for example, in mentoring.
We now have more than 400 mentors across the UK. These are experienced clinicians who are sharing their skills and expertise with the next generation of dentists. It is an incredibly rewarding thing to do – both financially, and in terms of taking that next step in a career.
DM: When will Myoptions be rolled out?
NW: Within the next few months, Myoptions will be available to patients across a third of our network of practices.
It won’t happen overnight because we want to take the time to get this right and talk to our dentists and patients, and listen to their views. But we know there is demand out there from both patients and clinicians, and we will be offering it in more practices over the course of the year.
DM: What impact do you think this will have?
NW: I genuinely think this could be a game-changer for dentistry in the UK. It offers patients the treatment they need and clinicians the careers they want. It might be exactly what we need to change dentistry for the better.