Moments of clarity
Gabriela Pueyo explains to Guy Hiscott what Bupa Dental Care’s unified purpose means for dental professionals and patients
With just 12 months at the helm of Bupa Dental Care, Gabriela Pueyo may be one of the newer faces on the UK dental corporate scene. But don’t mistake that for inexperience.
The organisation’s general manager is not just one of the most high-profile figures in the sector, but one of the most experienced, too. Well versed in the complexities of healthcare, Gabriela is bringing 16 years of top-level experience. She previously worked for Sanitas – Bupa’s Spanish arm, and the largest healthcare company in Spain.
She is unsurprisingly clear about the value of understanding where you’re heading when it comes to business.
‘The most important thing we’ve done since I started is to achieve clarity over who we are as a business, and where we want to be,’ she explains. ‘Strategy is important, but unless you can make that strategy tangible, it becomes really hard for people to relate to it.
‘A lot of what we’ve done has involved helping our teams understand what that means for them in their day-to-day lives.’
Building for the long term
If getting everyone pulling in the same direction is important, Gabriela joined the UK business at a good time. For the last few years, Bupa Dental Care has been focusing closely on that question. The business has had its hands full integrating the Oasis practices it acquired in 2017.
Unifying the processes between the two organisations and rebranding the more than 400 practices that joined the Bupa fold has taken time. Now, the business is ready to move forwards in a big way.
The acquisition has seen the company change considerably. But what hasn’t changed through the expansion is Bupa’s core mission.
‘We want to help our customers live longer, healthier and happier lives,’ explains Gabriela.
‘That comes from who we are as a company. We’re limited by guarantee: we don’t have shareholders and that gives us a different DNA. Bupa has been around for 70 years and our plan is to be around for the next 70, and well beyond.
‘In everything we do – whether for patients or our staff – we’re really looking for the long-term relationship, not the one-off transaction.’
That long-term approach naturally shapes the business, Gabriela explains. She believes it makes it easier for Bupa to put patients at the centre of everything it does.
A global viewpoint
NHS treatment makes up around 40% of the group’s revenues. This is a figure that may surprise those more used to associating the company with private treatment. But the close focus on quality Bupa is known for remains undiminished.
‘Our aspiration is to be the most trusted provider of dental care in the UK and Ireland,’ Gabriela adds.
‘The word “trusted” is very important for us – trust isn’t something you generate in one visit. It’s something you generate over time. You build it, and then you have to maintain it – and if you’re focused on that continually, as we are, it naturally changes your approach.’
She brings first-hand experience of how that approach is interpreted by different Bupa businesses across the globe.
She explains: ‘It’s interesting how much of dentistry is similar between countries.
‘So although you have to tailor your approach to local market conditions, there’s a universal need for businesses that patients can trust.
‘There are a lot of commonalities to the provision of dentistry, especially the way Bupa wants to provide it.’
That global viewpoint is becoming increasingly important in the UK, where the reliance on an overseas workforce and the ongoing debate over Brexit are throwing up unique challenges for dentistry.
Looking for opportunity
‘There is a huge scarcity of workforce here in the UK,’ she explains. ‘More so than in most countries Bupa operates in. That’s one thing we’re considering for the future. How we can leverage our position as part of a global network to address that?
‘For years, we’ve brought professionals in from outside the UK to make up the gaps that are built into the system.
‘That situation has now changed. I don’t necessarily think people are leaving yet, but there’s so much uncertainty that they aren’t coming here.’
‘People who can see a future will look for opportunity. But people who are faced with uncertainty tend to stay put. The fact the rest of Europe is doing quite well economically means people aren’t making tough decisions about relocating: they simply don’t need to.
‘This combination hasn’t helped us in the UK very much. I’m a big believer that where there’s a will there’s a way. We’re exploring every avenue we can think of in Bupa. We want to ensure we can provide our patients with the service they need.’
Walking the talk
UK workforce challenges notwithstanding, the future is looking bright for Bupa as it picks up steam under Gabriela’s leadership.
‘The company is still growing, so it will continue acquiring practices – as selectively as ever.’
‘We want to grow. But I want to be very clear that I’m not going to buy somewhere just to meet a target,’ Gabriela explains.
‘We’re self-limiting in that regard; but, equally, I’m not going to limit myself either. If we find somewhere that fits, then we will make them part of the family.’
The focus on ‘bringing to life who we want to be’ is far from over. Gabriela stresses the company will always be committed to ‘walking the talk’.
‘We have an ever-present responsibility to evolve,’ she adds. ‘To always strive to be a place where our people are engaged, and happy to be working.
‘If we can do that, then we’re bringing the ideals of Bupa to life.’
For more information see www.bupa.co.uk