The future of dentistry
Simon Gallier is driven by a desire to modernise and improve both clinical and administrative dentistry for all concerned. Clinically, Simon has pushed the boundaries forward with lasers and high-end dental work, and now he’s focusing on delivering economies of scale and efficiencies to allow every member of the team to focus on what they like to do best.
Simon says: ‘30 years ago, a dentist spent 1% of his time doing admin. Today, a single-handed practice owner may be spending 20 to 30% of his time on admin. However, dentists are not necessarily the best people to run the business. They have to have the power of veto over clinical matters but dentists are not trained to be business people. Yes, there are some young entrepreneurial dentists out there but the vast majority just get fed up with all the admin that they’re doing.’
Shaping the future of dentistry
Simon spent some time working for one of the corporates as its clinical director, during which time he was able to identify what he liked and didn’t like about the set up. After his time there, he decided to take six months out to reflect on his values.
Simon believed that the future of dentistry was to be found outside of the traditional dental set-up and, indeed, inspiration came from an unlikely source – John Lewis. Recognising that the department store chain has made and maintained a very good name for itself, with both staff and customers loving the shops, Simon considered what made the company so successful.
Having researched the whole history of John Lewis, Simon realised that the fundamental building block of employee ownership was the key to success. This led him to think about how the concept might transfer over to dentistry.
On this, Simon comments: ‘I decided the foundation stone must be employee ownership, not just the principal, as has traditionally been the case. We in the profession, over the years, have embraced teamwork, so the natural next step is to share the admin with the team. Dentists should focus on what they do best; you’re wasting your clinical skills if you’re spending 30% of your time on running the business. You have to decide; do you want to be a businessman or a dentist? Who is the best person for IT? CQC? HR?
‘We need to understand that healthcare is a unique business and dentistry within healthcare is even more unique. The uniqueness that dentistry has at general practice level is that it is always one-to-one care by a healthcare professional and it’s always invasive. That’s not like other healthcare offerings; you go to the doctor, he can write you a prescription or refer you on. Virtually every time you go to the dentist there’s an intervention in the mouth.’
Acknowledging the uniqueness of dentistry is an important part of Future Health Partnership’s (FHP’s) model. Following payment of a sustainable, fair price for the business, FHP lets the practice carry on as usual. Any changes are made over time and only if the members/partners/owners ie, staff are in agreement.
Becoming business partners
So, how exactly does such an acquisition work and how do team members become shareholders in the partnership?
Simon explains: ‘FHP holds practices as community interest companies (CIC), based on the NHS spinout concept, for example Community Dental Services. A CIC is set up to deliver care or a business for the community. I would say dentistry is fundamentally a community benefit. We’re delivering community interest every day of every week.
‘Employees pay £1 for one share in the practice, which gives them a say in the AGM. No-one has to buy a share if they don’t want to, and no-one can have more than one share. It has to be held for the benefit of the staff and the community forever. It can only ever be sold to another CIC with the same remit.
‘Everyone gets paid their salary. Then it’s about making the partners responsible for their own future and having a say in decision making. We want our partners to be the best paid, to have career opportunities within the organisation and to know the comfort of having a life-long job if they want it. To take advantage of all of this, the businesses need to be run efficiently. So FHP’s aim is to identify what people are good at within the partnership practices and give them that job to do. Some people will be working across partnerships, but can stay in their own practice. So, if someone wants to do CQC (Care Quality Commission) for six practices within the partnership they can. We want to give them more of what they enjoy and take away the bits that they don’t.’
You may well ask: where does the profit go? Clearly, every business needs to make a profit but FHP’s raison d’être is not to make excessive profit. Simon believes that any profit should be reinvested in the business, rather than benefitting corporate shareholders. Investing in staff and equipment is key; in addition, Simon would like to build up a pot of money to be able to offer the partners pensions further down the line.
Believe in dentistry
Over to Simon for some final words of wisdom: ‘I’m a dentist. I believe in dentistry. I believe in the future of dentistry, and I think the best people to run it and deliver it for patients are the staff themselves.
‘I feel this is the logical step in running the business of dentistry. What would be the ideal model for dentistry in the future? I think FHP is it. If people do care and believe in better, they will ultimately thrive.’
Future Health Partnership (FHP) community interest company (CIC) is a not-for-profit healthcare organisation. FHP is similar to a John Lewis style of business, offering a viable, ethical future for healthcare. Each practice becomes part of the group, and will be held for the benefit of all staff – not just the practice owner.
For further information, please visit www.futurehealthpartnership.co.uk or call 08000 789 402.