Frying pan and fire – a cautionary note on private practice

Frying pan and fire – a cautionary note on private practiceJulian Perry discusses private dentistry and why it’s important to have a proper plan in place. 

There’s currently a lot of enthusiasm for ‘going private’. It’s in the dental press and all over social media. Concerns over the dental NHS system have been amplified by the pandemic and Brexit, resulting in a reduced workforce.

I’ve never been a massive fan of the current NHS system. But my suggestion around caution is based not on ’emotion’ but centred in ‘reality’ – especially for some.

The spend on private dentistry is around £4.2 billion and is about the same as the NHS.

Private care has been forced on many patients because of the NHS’s lack of availability – many dentists have been encouraged by the ‘uptick in private’. But the challenge is that circa 90% of private spending comes from upselling to NHS patients.

If you cut off the supply of NHS patients to your practice, you cut off the private up-sell route.

The entire experience

Many adult patients in the UK seek out an NHS dentist for their check-ups but are happy to be sold to. It may well be that if their dentist turns off the NHS check-up, some patients may vote with their feet.

It is also a reality that some dentists do not understand the difference between NHS and private dental care. It’s not about just charging more, it is about the entire experience; the environment, the quality of care, gentleness, and respectfulness. Are you sure you are ready and able to deliver private care?

Add to this inflation, cost-of-living increases, and the fuel prices hike. For many clients, disposable incomes will be challenged. This should also be considered.

Before jumping from the ‘frying pan’ into what could be a ‘fire’, make a proper plan. In essence, check that you’re not going to get ‘burned’ once you leave the ‘pan’…as you may not easily get back in! Never say ‘never’. Just ask yourself: is the timing right?

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