Opening the door to private practice

Jayne Gibson discusses how to approach making a seamless and successful conversion from NHS to private dentistry.

When you begin thinking about leaving NHS dentistry, whether fully or partially, it can often feel like you’ve opened one door just to find many more ajar. There are so many factors to take into account and options to consider, it can be difficult to know which is the best way to turn. You might be able to see pros and cons behind more than one door, but you simply don’t know which one would be the best choice to help you grow and protect your practice.

Whichever option you choose, if the whole practice or just some of the dentists ‘go private’, it means that some of your patients are probably no longer going to be able to see their preferred dentist on the NHS, so it’s a decision that requires careful consideration to manage the process appropriately.   

A big step

I know from 15 years of working with practices, many of which converted to private dentistry and some of which chose not to, that it can be a decision that takes months and sometimes years of mulling over. For some, they may already have decided to introduce more private work but they are unsure of the best way to move forward.

At the moment, when you can barely read a newspaper or watch the news without seeing yet another story about the spiralling state of the NHS, more and more dentists are telling us they are ready to begin moving away from it. And not only are they ready, but ‘enough is enough’ and they want to act quickly.

However, changing your business model – to a fully private or to a mixed practice – can feel like a big step. To move down this path with confidence and lessen the enormity of that first step requires forethought and planning, which will make the whole process as smooth as possible. You need to feel satisfied that you have thoroughly considered the options and arrived at a well-informed decision.

Whilst every practice is unique and works under its own set of circumstances, there are common concerns surrounding this process. More often than not, the thing that tops the list of concerns, the big question that dentists want to answer, is, ‘Will I retain enough of my patients?’

Of course, it is completely understandable that this is uppermost in people’s minds when thinking about the financial viability of their practice’s future. What many will be reassured to find out is that the answer to this is usually ‘yes’ – naturally this depends on the individual circumstances of each practice, but generally dentists overestimate the numbers they need to move to private with them.

What is vital when thinking about this question is to understand the key factors that can influence your patients’ response, and what significance you should attach to each of these elements. This is an area that most practices welcome external expert support on, alongside how to manage other concerns, such as how to ensure the entire practice team is bought into and supportive of the shift to private dentistry.

Team effort

Any business undergoing a fundamental shift in focus needs to approach it as a cohesive team with everyone working towards the same goal. Communication is usually the key here; being upfront and clear about why you think it would be a good move for your practice and your patients.

These are just some of the things you need to think about moving to private dentistry. For more insight into what else needs considering and to support dentists in these deliberations, we have created a free guide, How to make a seamless and successful conversion from NHS to private dentistry.

Identifying and analysing these key factors can give you the assurance you’re looking for and provides information that is key to unlocking the door to effectively introducing private services into your practice.

To find out more about gaining more independence from the NHS, download the free guide, How to make a seamless and successful conversion from NHS to private dentistry, by visiting

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