How Buxton Dental Practice regained control by going private

‘Calm, positive and excited’ – Craig Walsh explains how the move from NHS to private with a membership plan benefited Buxton Dental Practice.

Three years after taking his NHS dental practice fully private with Practice Plan, principal dentist at Buxton Dental Practice, Craig Walsh, says he is now calm, positive and excited about what the future holds for his practice, which is a stark contrast from the way things had been previously.

Established for around 30 years, Craig took over stewardship of the practice about five years ago when it was a mixed practice. Over time, the burdens of fulfilling the NHS contract were restricting Craig’s ability to fulfil his plans for the practice so much, something had to give.

‘The main drivers for moving away from the NHS were the fact that we couldn’t plan for the future,’ he explains. ‘We were snowed under with the amount of paperwork we were doing. Policies and protocols were always getting heavier, and more intense for the staff to take care of.

‘So, we brought Practice Plan on board, and now we can set targets and OKRs (objectives and key results) and plan for the next quarter. It gives us the ability now to grow the business predictably and measure and see where we’ve come from, rather than just constantly trying to keep our heads above water.’

Prior to conversion, the practice had a small number of patients on plan with another provider. However, Craig was looking for a provider that would offer him the support he needed to make the move away from the NHS. His conversations with Practice Plan convinced him they would be the right partner for this.

‘Couldn’t have gone better’

Despite the enormity of the step he was taking, his conversion couldn’t have gone better.

‘To be fair, the conversion was easy for us,’ he says. ‘We spoke to all the patients and let them know exactly what we wanted to do. We shared our vision for the practice, how we wanted to look after them, and the care we wanted to provide in the future. And then the rest just sort of fell into place.

‘The change was well rehearsed, well looked after. We had a good team behind it that was well backed up by the team at Practice Plan. We didn’t expect it to go as easily as it did, but we planned it and it went really smoothly.’

Since making the move, Craig now feels he has more control over the running of the business.

‘We’re just as busy as we were before, but profitably busy,’ he says. ‘It’s given us the ability to set targets and have a real structure to the way that we lay out the year. It also provides the autonomy and time to our clinical and support staff that they’ve always craved.’

Moving away from constriction

He also feels the move away from the constrictions of the NHS benefits how he and his dental team deliver treatments, too.

‘We can now do treatments in the amount of time that it takes to do, properly, without having to rush anything,’ he adds. ‘And that makes a big difference to the clinicians wanting to do the work, for sure. And the patients love it because they’ve got all the time in the world. There’s no revolving doors feel, where they’re just in and out. It’s nice.’

If he needed any convincing that he’d made the right decision, then the cost-of-living crisis has provided that.

‘Now that we’re fully private we have been able to put up our prices to reflect the charges to the business, whereas NHS practices can’t do that,’ he adds.

‘The plan patients pay monthly for their check-ups and hygiene appointments. But if they need to have any treatment, then that’s chargeable on top. Which is fair. So, if it costs us X amount and the materials are costing us more, then we can make sure that’s passed on to the patient, rather than coming out from the profits of the practice. Goodness only knows how you’re supposed to make it work if you’re on an NHS fixed contract.’

‘Just move!’

On a personal level, the change has also allowed Craig to pursue other business interests outside of, but complementary to dentistry. Without the need to fulfil targets and quotas, he has been able to reduce his clinical hours and now works part-time in the clinic.

He spends the rest of his time developing his own indemnity company, which is due to be launched this year. This has meant a change to Buxton Dental’s business model which is transitioning to one that is associate-led.

Having made the change to private practice, what advice would he give to a dentist who may be considering a move away from the NHS?

‘Just move!’ is his emphatic response. ‘Based on how well we’re trained in the UK, and the kit and materials, and the talent of some of the clinicians that we’ve got in the country, I don’t believe you can practise to your full potential on the NHS. It’s really difficult, especially if you want to make a good living at the same time.

‘So, it depends on what type of dentistry, or what type of dentist or clinician you want to become. That will heavily influence whether you’re in the NHS or private.’

A nurtured relationship

Three years on from having made the move away from the NHS himself, and despite approaches from other companies, Craig is still more than happy to retain Practice Plan as his membership plan provider. ‘I think Practice Plan stands out amongst the others because they still listen to us as a small business. It doesn’t feel like a mass corporate that just sits over the top and takes care of the payments. It’s more than that.

‘And with newer providers coming onto the market, it’s important that the relationship between practice and plan provider is nurtured and looked after. And Practice Plan have always been known for having that sort of relationship with their practices. But to actually feel it and go through it, and be one of the practices that they take care of, it’s clear to me that I’m happy where I am.’

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and are looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process while 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:

For more information visit the Practice Plan website:

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