Janet Mason speaks to practice manager, Karen Dorrington, about the key things to consider when thinking about running a mixed practice.

Introducing some element of private dentistry into an NHS practice is a step that many choose to take.

There are different reasons for this. For some it is the first step of their plan to becoming fully private, while for others it can be just a toe in the water to see if moving private is the right long-term option for them. Or it might be the goal in itself – enabling those passionate about offering NHS services the ability to still do so while having another source of income and the opportunity to deliver different treatments.

This last option may become increasingly popular as we move closer to the rollout of contract reform in 2020 and dentists feel they no longer want to rely solely on the NHS for income. For those thinking of becoming a mixed practice, I asked Karen Dorrington, manager of Inglewood House Dental Practice, for her thoughts on what you should be considering before making the move to mixed practice.

Things to consider

  1. Who will communicate the change, and how – think about who is best placed to discuss the move to private with your patients, whether it is the front desk team and/or the dentist. Are they ready for those conversations and the questions patients may have? It may be worthwhile undergoing some training in communication or ‘selling’
  2. Who will deliver the NHS contract, and how accessible is it – consider whether you will need to bring in a new associate or if it can be fulfilled by a well-established member of your team and which of these would work best for your practice. Also think about how easy it is for patients to get an NHS appointment with your practice. Thinking strategically about such things can help to encourage patients to move to your new private list
  3. Crunch the numbers early on – ideally have someone external that you can rely on to help you with this, it really takes some of the pressure off and gives you peace of mind that you’re on the right path. You can calculate early on how many patients you need and how to set the correct fees to make sure you are confident in your decision and that you have the right foundation to build your private list from. This is what we did with Janet Mason, our regional support manager at Practice Plan. She didn’t try to push us, she just spent time making sure everything was right for us and that we would be in the best place possible to make the move
  4. Be clear about fees early on – when you inform patients about the move to private, make sure you have something, such as a leaflet, that explains the prices and provides a comparison with the NHS. Often the public’s perception is that there is a much bigger gap between the fees, so providing clarification as soon as possible will give patients a clear picture and allow them to make a well-informed decision
  5. How will you manage patients’ different expectations – patients receiving private treatment may well have different expectations about the service they should receive. As their dentist you will need to make sure they feel they are receiving value for money. Often this can be done through the little things that add up to make a difference, ie a separate waiting room with sofas rather than standard chairs and a coffee machine, or the ability to book weekend and/or early/late appointments, etc.

Thanks to Karen for sharing her advice based on her experience. If you are thinking of introducing private dentistry to your practice visit change.practiceplan.co.uk.