NHS dentistry – is this the end of the love affair?

NHS dentistry – is this the end of the love affair?

Regional support manager Louise Anderson suggests it may be time to bid a fond farewell to an old love.

Most of us have been lucky enough to fall in love at some point in our lives. You know how it goes; at first everything is wonderful. Your partner is perfect and can do nothing wrong. You can’t ever see yourself with anyone else because, to paraphrase Sting, every little thing they do is magic.

However, in reality, it’s impossible to live in a permanent state of euphoria. So, after a while, the initial excitement tones itself down to a level that is manageable every day.

If you’re lucky and your love affair is built on trust and mutual respect, it could be strong enough to weather any storms and last for many years, perhaps even the rest of your life. However, some relationships aren’t like that and just run their course.

Often, things start off great with high hopes on both sides. And, in the early days, everything is great and both parties are happy. But sometimes there comes a point when cracks begin to show. One party starts to feel unappreciated and taken for granted.

Eroded trust

They may begin to feel that the other party is placing unreasonable demands upon their time. Resentment starts to creep in and begins to taint everything. Trust becomes eroded and one or both partner starts questioning why they bother staying. Sound familiar?

You can apply this analogy to the relationship some dentists have with the NHS. Years ago NHS dentistry was, if not the only show in town, certainly the main event. An NHS contract provided the security of a regular and predictable income. It was a safe haven for dentists.

Many dentists felt happy and settled with this arrangement and were often ideologically wedded to the concept of NHS dentistry.

However, over the years a coolness crept into the relationship. Practice owners started to resent being told what treatments they could and could not offer and what materials they could use.

They began to feel a loss of control over their own business. Whose practice was it, anyway? For them, the NHS took on more of the character of a controlling partner than the loving companion who only wanted the best for their beau.

New possibilities

Then came the pandemic and all certainties went out of the window. The world changed. The enforced reductions in the numbers of patients that practices were allowed to see opened up a whole new vista.

New possibilities appeared. Instead of being enslaved to punishing schedules to meet UDA targets, practices glimpsed a new world where people had a work-life balance and many liked what they saw.

They began to appreciate the benefits of being able to see fewer patients while spending more time with the ones they did see. They enjoyed being able to finish work and have the time to do other things. Many stood back and reassessed their relationship with their current partner (the NHS) and found it wanting.

Like a spouse who has been under another’s thumb for many years, their eyes were opened to the restrictions that had been placed upon them.

The scales fell from their eyes. They began to see that there was a big world out there with more than enough patients for them to be able to run a sustainable business.

Patients would come to them for appointments because they were a dentist per se and not just because they were an NHS dentist. The fear of failure diminished and confidence grew, along with the prospect of being appreciated again.

Enough is enough

We have seen many NHS practices metaphorically packing their bags and leaving in favour of private practice in recent times. After years of living in fear that they wouldn’t be able to make it on their own, they are proving that there is life after NHS dentistry.

And now might just be one of the best times to make a move to private practice as the backlog of appointments, coupled with the shortage of dentists mean patients who can get an appointment with a practice count themselves lucky.

So, practices have been able to make the move away from NHS dentistry without the same fear of failure they may have experienced a few years ago, even in areas not obviously suited to private practice.

A phrase I hear often from practices that have transitioned to private practice is they wish they’d done it sooner.

Life is too short not to be happy in what you do. Is it time for you to take a leaf out of Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer’s book and say, ‘enough is enough’?

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and are looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process whilst moving at a pace that’s right for you, why not start the conversation with Practice Plan on 01691 684165, or book your one-to-one NHS to private call today: practiceplan.co.uk/nhsvirtual

For more information visit the Practice Plan website: www.practiceplan.co.uk/nhs

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