‘Inclusivity is in our DNA’ – Bupa Dental Care and people-first dentistry

‘Inclusivity is in our DNA’ – Bupa Dental Care and people-first dentistry

Gaby Bissett speaks to Bupa Dental Care’s UK general manager, Mark Allan, as he marks 12 months in his role and takes stock of what the business is doing to protect and support its workforce – and its plans for the future.

Hi Mark! What first attracted you to Bupa Dental Care?

I was drawn to Bupa Dental Care because of its focus on people. We have more than 9,000 employed and self-employed colleagues across our business.

When you visit our practices – I’ve visited more than 80 now – a few things stand out. Over everything, we have passionate people who deliver exceptional care.

What also struck me is how diverse our practices are. We don’t have a standard model. We have a portfolio of brands across the UK, including Bupa, Platinum, Total Orthodontics, and Smiles practices, each with a unique identity. These practices offer a range of services, from NHS to private dental care or a combination of both, and extensive treatment options for our patients.

Something also worth mentioning is that we have a predominantly female workforce. More than 90% of our colleagues in Bupa Dental Care are female, and we take pride in our remarkable ethnic diversity, which naturally reflects the demographics of our patients.

At our core, we put our people right at the centre of how we do things and build our business based on their needs – they help us to make decisions, and this involves shaping policies and processes, which play a pivotal role in driving the success of our practices.

From an inclusivity standpoint, having spent my career in financial services, I’ve grown used to leadership teams where all the individuals look like me.

Now, I’m proud to say that our leadership team is more than 50% female, and it’s incredibly refreshing. When you lead a predominantly female workforce, having key female voices at the table is instrumental in helping us avoid falling into traditional, male-dominated ways of thinking.

Inclusivity is a huge focus both inside and outside of dentistry. Was this important to you?

Absolutely. At Bupa, being an inclusive organisation is in our DNA – it’s a place where ‘everyone is welcome’, and this commitment runs deep and is something our people truly feel.

We’re proud to consistently be one of the top 50 inclusive employers in the UK and the Official Healthcare Partner for ParalympicsGB, supporting individuals with disabilities and helping break down barriers in society for greater inclusion. This is just one example of how we live by our values and embrace diversity.

As a dad of two daughters and a son, this really matters to me personally. Seeing the world through their eyes has given me a fresh outlook on the importance of inclusivity, and I encourage conversations at home and at work. We need to listen to diverse voices, understand different perspectives and act on their insights.

Absolutely! Is there anything else Bupa Dental Care is doing to promote inclusive approaches?

If there’s one thing we’ve done really well over the last year, it’s cranking up the volume on listening. There’s no one-size-fits-all in a business like ours, and you can’t treat it like that because people won’t want to be part of it.

For instance, we recently set up a practice manager advisory committee. This brings together 15 practice managers across the UK – both in the NHS and private sector. Every decision, from suppliers to rewards, goes through this committee. It’s become a core part of how we operate.

We’re also revamping the way we manage our clinical team. We’ve introduced a clinical advisory group with a number of new roles, including a director of dentistry, who reports to me and sits on our senior leadership team. They’ll be a practising clinician, so they truly understand the impact of our decisions in practice for their peers.

We’re bringing in a head of nursing from our existing nurse pool. They’ll continue to practice while being the voice of our nursing community. They’ll advise us on everything from ethical practices to career growth.

In my first year, I’ve also noticed the untapped potential of being part of the Bupa family. You see, we’re unique as we’re a dental provider and a market-leading insurance business, and it gives us rafts of opportunity. It means we understand the bigger picture, and we can go further.

For example, we offer paid time off for IVF or baby loss to support people’s personal circumstances. We have also given our female employees access to a menopause plan. We’re also offering our private medical insurance and enhancing our healthcare benefits for our practice colleagues.

The whole ‘listen and think’ mantra is paramount for us. It’s about making sure we’re not just talking the talk but walking the walk when it comes to inclusivity.

It’s currently Menopause Awareness Month. Please can you tell us a bit more about your menopause policy?

What’s really special about Bupa is our drive to break down barriers and shatter taboos, whether it’s mental health, sexual health, or, in this case, women’s health, like menopause.

When 90% of your workforce are women, you’d better get comfortable with having these kinds of conversations. It’s crucial. Being open is a big part of the solution. There’s nothing worse than seeing an employee struggle with menopause symptoms and not making any adjustments.

That’s why we’ve rolled out our menopause plan for our people, which is free and includes appointments with a specialist GP. But we’re not stopping there. We’re all ears when our employees talk about the nitty-gritty stuff, like how uniforms can be uncomfortable. We want to make those going through menopause feel cared for and comfortable.

We’re at the start of the journey and there’s a lot more to do, which we’re committed to doing to make Bupa Dental Care a great place to work, and where dental professionals choose to come join us.

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