‘Come on. Come and join the plan’

'Come on. Come and join the plan'

Having spent around 40 years in dentistry, Simon Gallier has left the NHS not once, not twice, but three times in his career. On each occasion he has prioritised a membership plan as part of his business model.

In late 2021 he purchased an NHS practice in Chester and chose once again to convert it to a private practice. Here he talks about the benefits to his practices of having a membership plan in place and how Practice Plan helped him through the process of leaving the NHS most recently.

Simon’s journey

I’m a great believer in the plan system, in that it is a sign of mutual commitment between you and your patients. We’ve used various plan providers over the years, but our main practices are both Practice Plan.

I am more than happy with all the support they’ve given us. And therefore, the obvious choice for us when we decided to take this newest practice from NHS to private was to choose Practice Plan again.

Within our business, the number of people on plan is one of our key performance indicators. As the owner of the practices, I want to see the number of people on plan increase every single year.

And so, we encourage the staff to increase those numbers. We have around 3,500 people on plan which is a measure of how committed our patients are to us.

Very supportive service

They’re happy with the service we provide and are prepared to demonstrate their loyalty to us by signing up to a plan. Because they’re paying a monthly fee, we find they’re more likely to come in for their appointments as opposed to pay-as- you-go patients who may put off their check-ups or hygiene appointments.

We were always going to choose to have a membership plan at this latest practice. We offer an essentials plan, which include check-ups and hygiene appointments.

It gives a comfort blanket to patients so they know that their check-ups and cleaning are sorted and encourages them to come in for those. They also get a discount on any fees for treatment over and above this.

Once we had decided we were going down the plan route, which was one of the key steps in the conversion, we needed to write to the patients to inform them of the change. Practice Plan was very supportive in helping to write the letter and sorting the mailing for us, which took away some of the hassle.

Good idea

In my view, converting is very straight-forward, however, I think it’s always a good idea to ask dentists who’ve already converted to get the benefit of their experience and what they learnt along the way.

After speaking to Practice Plan, we spoke to a practice that was a similar size to us as although I’d converted 30 years ago, I had a smaller practice at that time. At this newest practice we were handing back 24,000 UDAs, so spoke to a practice up in Newcastle that had handed their entire contract back a year before.

Although I was convinced about it being the right thing to do for my practice, I needed to make sure the staff were happy, so speaking to another practice was incredibly useful.

Provide the reassurance

Their practice manager was brilliant and very reassuring about their conversion. So, one piece of advice I would give to anyone considering converting to private practice is to speak to someone who’s been there and done it.

We’re more than happy to speak to dentists and other team members about our experience and furnishing them with the benefit of our hindsight, and that includes speaking to my practice manager. I’ve no doubt in most cases, that will provide the reassurance you need.

As I said, converting from NHS to private practice is a very easy process with Practice Plan. We had at least two or three meetings with a couple of the Practice Plan regional support managers who took us through each stage in detail.

As I mentioned, we were fortunate that our practice manager here in Chester had already done a conversion in a previous practice where she’d worked. So, she knew what to look out for. For us, things went very smoothly, and we only have positive things to say about our conversion process with Practice Plan.

‘Absolutely no regrets’

Patients were certainly happy to register with us. We gave them the notification on the 31 December 2021, which was the cut-off date for the LAT to convert on the 31 March.

We had 8,000 patients on our books at the time. And we knew that, as hardly anybody is taking on NHS patients, we were likely to retain quite a lot of them as private patients. So, we were saying to them, ‘Come on, come and join the plan.’ And, by the time we actually converted, we had 1,000 patients signed up to the plan. And they were very positive about things.

It’s been a very pleasant and rewarding journey, I must admit. We were expecting a lot more negativity than we got. So onwards and upwards as far as I’m concerned.

I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about converting with Practice Plan. And I think it emphasises what I’ve always believed. In my 40 years in dentistry, I have not met a single dentist that’s ever made the transition who’s ever said, ‘Oh, I wish I could go back, I want to go back to the NHS’.

They’re always happier out of the NHS.

If you are interested in finding out more about how we help practices to become more profitable call 01691 684165 or visit www.practiceplan.co.uk

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