Did it once, did it well

Julian English attended the opening of a new dental clinic in Ealing, London. Here’s the story.

The Haven Green Dental Clinic, a 10-surgery practice in a Georgian Terrace has been re-located to brand new purpose-built premises on adjacent land. The new clinic is a three-storied, modern, spacious and air-conditioned building with lift access to all floors and facilities for the disabled.

Haven Green Clinic is one of the largest dental clinics in the UK, with over 40 staff. The practice is a one-stop venue for all aspects of dentistry. It has eight widely experienced general dental practitioners providing the backbone of treatments, but also has visiting specialists in orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, oral surgery and implant dentistry. It has two hygienists and over 20 nurses and receptionists.   

Blueprint Dental has for many years supported this practice with equipment and servicing, and Henry Schein is its major supplier of materials and IT equipment.

Owner Tony Morton and Metro Bank’s Vernon Hill at the practice opening

The owner of the clinic, Tony Morton, came over to the UK from New Zealand in 1965, having worked in Australia and New Guinea on the way over, before first moving to Ealing. He bought a small run-down part-time practice on the green in 1970.

In his new practice he provided intravenous sedation for nervous patients and was also one of the first general practices to offer dental implants. He believes this is why it grew and expanded into neighbouring buildings to the size it is today.

But the expansion created a problem. It grew on either side of his residence in a Georgian terrace, which he acquired over several years and made succession a difficulty. The solution was to relocate. Fortunately, there was adjacent land available.

The aim was to create a magnificent clinical environment. Tony said the building project was like a battle, lasting about nine years. It involved three architects, five planning applications, six banks, and two builders.

On the first floor are eight surgeries, an extra waiting area and a stylish X-ray facility. The surgeries feature the latest Dentsply Sirona chairs and 3D equipment. The ground floor houses reception, offices, disabled facilities and two surgeries. The lower floor is dedicated to a decontamination room, plant room, storage, and staff amenities.

The practice was formally opened by American Vernon Hill, founder and chairman of the country’s newest high street bank – Metro Bank – at a dedicated open evening.

His practice motto is ‘Do it once and do it well’ and he also tried to apply this philosophy to the construction project.

Tony saw a Huf Haus on Channel Four’s Grand Designs and decided to build in that style. These bespoke buildings are prefabricated in Germany and assembled on site. Planning permission was obtained, but when construction was about to commence the exacting fire precautions for a wood and glass building, ventilation and other new-build regulations required for a commercial dental surgery involved a dramatic rise in the budget. This precluded that method of construction, so it was back to the drawing board. After three more designs were submitted and rejected for various reasons, a concrete version of the original concept was finally approved.   

Funding was difficult. Tony’s bank had been very helpful for 45 years, but unfortunately, it had invested in sub-prime derivatives, miss-sold payment protection, and manipulated LIBOR, and with losses on its investments and the prospect of hefty fines for their misdemeanors, the bank was not in a position to help. After approaching four other banks that were also unable to help, Tony turned to the UK’s newest challenger, Metro Bank, which was helping small businesses. He was very fortunate to meet Vernon Hill, the billionaire head of Metro Bank at an award ceremony in the city where Vernon was rewarded for innovation in industry. Following a discussion, Vernon agreed to give Tony’s application his personal attention, and the next day his funding was approved.

Tony and his support team contacted 10 construction companies, extensively interviewed four, and unanimously selected one construction team. There were a few shocks on the way. Normally new buildings are exempt from VAT, and he started on this assumption, but as the developer and end recipient, expert advice revealed that VAT was payable; an unexpected 20% increase.

Despite the careful selection process, halfway through the project, the builder went into administration. Tony was able to wrestle contract from the administrator within the short time limit available and managed the site until one of his own patients was able to help out with the site team and necessary insurance.

One advantage of this potentially disastrous turn of events was the freedom to change the specifications with all the subcontractors. In most cases better options were taken, extending the schedule and increasing the costs but achieving a better result.

Tony hopes he ‘did it well’ and that it will be his legacy to dentistry and Ealing.

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