From the field with Practice Plan’s Suki Singh

from the fieldPractice Plan area manager, Suki Singh, talks about some of the industries topical issues, the continued demand for private dentistry and what issues practices could face in the coming months.

The current big issues

One of the big issues facing many practices at the moment is low staff morale. That stems from what we’ve all been through in the last 18 months. The lockdowns, backlogs, PPE and restrictions have really ground people down and led to a drop in morale within teams.

Recruitment is the other big issue, and this has been well publicised in the industry. There is an issue with supply as a lot of people have left the country or the profession. And a lot of practices are struggling to recruit in many positions.

One thing I am noticing is that mixed practices are finding it harder to attract new associates. They are reluctant to work under the NHS and want to go into a private setting.

How to run a happy ship

First of all, the two issues are linked in a way. Low morale is leading to people leaving the industry, which then causes recruitment issues.

So, the first thing to do is help practices boost their morale. One way we’ve done that is by reaching out to practices who have implemented successful ideas and asking them to share their best practice with others.

There are a lot of other things we advise practice owners to do to keep morale high. Such as buying lunch for the rest of the staff once a week. That is something that can really show the staff how appreciated they are. Small, low-cost gestures like this can have a huge impact on team morale.

Having a suggestion box about what to do to improve the practice morale can also help. People feel more comfortable making anonymous suggestions. Then there are other things to do such as evenings out or day trips, that again make the staff feel appreciated.

However, the simplest and most cost-effective thing you can do to improve team morale is to tell them how much you appreciate the effort they are putting in. Everyone responds to positive recognition of their worth within the practice.

Private demand

As we all know, there has been such a demand for private dentistry over recent months. From talking to my practices, it is showing no signs of letting up.

Many are telling me how they’re still playing catch up from the lockdown. Plan practices are also continuing to welcome a large number of new patients who are struggling to see an NHS dentist and are now more open to the option of going private.

We are asked by a lot of practices when we think this boom will drop off. It is my belief that it will continue for some time yet. The backlogs in waiting lists will take a long time to clear.

Also, many patients have changed their views on private dentistry. They won’t return to the NHS because they are happy with the service they are paying for.

Upcoming issues

I think in the coming months the issues that are relevant now will still remain. Morale will still be hit for some because practices are still working under restrictions and in PPE. However, eventually they will ease.

Recruitment issues are going to be quite difficult for some time. However, similar to the morale issue, hopefully when things get back to some sort of normality, we will slowly see this acute problem begin to dissipate somewhat.

I think over the coming months the main talking points for dentists are going to be the changes to standard operating procedures and the fallow time.

We have seen the fallow time regulations around consecutive family member appointments change; however, dentists are waiting to see what happens next and whether there are any major changes.

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