The feasibility of going private

shutterstock_171947654Nigel Jones, sales director at Practice Plan, discusses the important factors to consider when contemplating the feasibility of going private.

Taking the step to convert from the NHS to private care is not without its risks and to suggest otherwise would be disingenuous. However, as with most major business decisions, with the right planning and preparation, including an assessment of those risks and potential ways to mitigate them, it’s a step that can be taken safely and successfully as countless practices around the UK can testify.

Retaining patients

The biggest issue for most dental practitioners contemplating going private is whether or not they will retain enough of their current patients to meet their financial requirements.

One of the most important factors to consider is the length of time you have been caring for your current patient list. Trust will build over time and many patients will be less inclined to leave a dentist that has proven themselves over a number of visits for a new untried and untested dental practitioner.

The demographics of your patient list are also a consideration although this need only be a major factor if you have a relatively high proportion of patients that are exempt from NHS charges. Otherwise, the main issue with the relative affluence of an area is usually the impact it has on the confidence of the dentist and practice team when it comes to communicating with patients.

The number of patients you need to retain is clearly a factor of the level of fees you intend to charge as self-evidently, the higher you charge, the fewer patients you need so long as they continue to attend regularly.

It is worthwhile considering what your financial requirements are in terms of the gross income you need to cover your costs and deliver the personal drawings you feel are appropriate.

You will also want to factor in any provision you need to make up for the loss of any NHS pension benefits and changes to your overhead costs such as increased hygienist hours, or even additional investment in the practice infrastructure and technology.

Private hourly rate

Taking in to consideration the clinical hours you want to work and the holiday you want to take will allow you to estimate the appropriate private hourly rate for your private practice.

This can then be used in conjunction with your estimates to the length of time individual procedures take to come up with a set of fees per item or monthly membership plan fees that are appropriate for your individual circumstances.

Benchmarking against other local practices is relevant but remember that they will have different costs bases and the dentists will almost certainly work at a different speed to you, potentially even having a different treatment philosophy, so take care not to read too much into the comparison.

Local competition

Although local competition is not generally a significant factor if you have been seeing your list of patients for many years, it can be more important, particularly if there are new NHS practices locally, if patient loyalty has not yet had the time to build up.

The final consideration is the potential buy-in of the practice team members and their willingness to support your aims as they can play a crucial role in the success or failure of a conversion. If you lack confidence in your ability to get their buy-in to the proposed change, that needs serious thought, although in most cases, they will only to be aware of the pressures you have been experiencing.

Looking at these factors may reveal caution is the better part of valour for some, but for others it will make the step towards private practice seem much smaller. We can help you review the feasibility of a conversion in your specific situation and help you devise a plan to mitigate any risks so you know you’re making a decision based on sound information.

Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded patient membership plans and an increasingly significant source of wider business support services for dentistry. So, whether you’re planning a conversion from the NHS, introducing a dental plan into an established practice or looking to change from another plan provider, Practice Plan can help you take your practice where you want it to go.

Over the years, it has helped thousands of dentists introduce membership plans and develop business strategies. Access to regional support managers, customer service advisers and expert marketers as well as dental business consultants and speakers, means a practice will get practical and strategic advice to help them achieve their unique goals.

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