Gaining more independence from the NHS – one small step, rather than a giant leap

Nigel Jones says if you’re beginning to think about your options away from the NHS, the first step is to begin analysing how well placed your practice is to make a move to private dentistry.

It has been an extraordinary start to 2017 for the NHS, and unfortunately – but unsurprisingly – not a positive one. Within the first two weeks of the year the NHS had been branded a ‘humanitarian crisis’ by the British Red Cross, while the Royal College of Nursing said its members were reporting the worst conditions ever experienced. There was also unusual public tension between the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, and the Prime Minister over the funding, or lack thereof, for the NHS.

It is against this backdrop of an NHS in crisis that dentistry finds itself battling for its place, and share of the budget. While the experience of dentists may not be grabbing the national media headlines in the same way as those working in our hospitals and A&E departments, it is no less intense. Uncertainty over the future of NHS contracts, plateaued government funding, and huge pressure to meet UDA targets, has left many with low morale and feeling like something has to give.

Bearing that in mind it can be easy for someone on the outside looking in to say, ‘well, if things are so bad then why not just leave’. But we know the decision is not that simple.

Taking that first step

Many of the dentists we work with have a deep attachment to providing an NHS service and a sense of loyalty to the patients they have been treating, often for generations. We understand why there can be resistance to leaving; even though many acknowledge the benefits. We’ve worked with many dentists who want to gain more independence from the NHS but just struggle to know where to begin; taking that first step often feels like a giant leap into the unknown.

Yet it doesn’t have to be. The first step towards exploring diversification of your practice’s business model is literally just that – one step, and it’s important to bear in mind it’s not an irreversible one. If you’re beginning to think about your options away from the NHS, the first step is to begin analysing how well placed your practice is to make a move to private dentistry. There can be a number of factors to consider here, such as how long you’ve been seeing your current list and what proportion of patients you would need to retain.

Now, asking those questions – and more – about your practice is one thing, but knowing exactly what you should be considering and how to interpret the answers is another thing entirely. It is for this reason that many dentists choose to work with a dental membership plan provider like Practice Plan.

It’s important to have expert support from the start to help you make sense of these questions, to know what weighting to attach to each and how they relate to each other. When you’re considering how viable a move from NHS to private will be for your practice, you need to make sure you are making a well-informed and balanced decision.

Guidance and support

Having someone who has guided other practices along the same journey to support you is invaluable – not just for the knowledge, but also as a sounding board to fully explore the options and talk through any
personal concerns.

It is also vital to bear in mind that this first stage is just exploratory, rather than a binding commitment to operating a mixed or fully private practice. Simply making enquiries with people who can support you along the way should not obligate you to make that transition. If it’s not the right decision for you, your practice and your patients, that is the bottom line.

Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded dental plans. It has a wealth of business and plan support services, including expert marketing support, and a proven reputation for supporting practices to develop and maintain a profitable and sustainable business. So, whether you’re considering your options out of the NHS, looking to introduce a plan into an established practice or considering switching from another plan provider, Practice Plan has the ability to offer you expert advice. Call 01691 684165 or visit

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