Overcoming obstacles to leaving the NHS

obstacles to leaving the NHS

Sarah Barnard urges dentists who thought leaving the NHS contract was fraught with difficulties to think again – times are changing!

‘If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.’ – Wayne Dyer.

Attitudes can have a great influence on how people respond to certain situations. However, pre-pandemic, some of the obstacles preventing practices from converting from NHS to private weren’t only about the owner’s perception. There were circumstances where a move to private practice would not have been wise.

Now, in our post-pandemic world, as Practice Plan regional support manager Sarah Barnard says: ‘Many of the barriers to becoming a private practice no longer exist.’

‘Not enough patients’

One of the phrases I hear most frequently when dentists are talking about why they don’t feel confident about handing back their NHS contract is ‘I will lose too many patients’.

Naturally, when you become independent there will be a cohort of patients who either can’t or won’t pay for dentistry. But that’s OK. As a private practice, you need fewer patients. This means that you can spend more time with them and provide the care they deserve.

With the income from patient fees, you can afford to work at a more relaxed pace. You can take the time to get to know your patients better. With the best will in the world, a 15-minute NHS appointment barely gives you time to say hello before you have to move onto the next patient.

Private practice offers extra time to do more than just have a quick look around your patients’ mouths. You can start to find out what, if anything, they would like to change about their smile. You can then start to explore the idea of treatment plans that would help them achieve this.

So, these days, it’s highly unlikely a practice converting from NHS to private practice would lose too many patients.

‘I’m not based in the right area to sustain a private practice’

Once upon a time, this really could have been a barrier to becoming an independent dentist. However, patients are experiencing problems with gaining access to a dentist (any dentist!). Many people who may not previously have considered private dentistry are now opting to pay for their oral health care.

Many are choosing to do this via a membership plan. This allows them to spread the cost and gives them some assurance they can still be seen regularly. Despite the squeeze on household expenditure, more people than ever before are accepting that they will have to pay for their oral healthcare, either by spreading the cost monthly with a plan or paying-as-they go.

On several occasions recently, practices that have notified their patients that they will no longer be offering NHS care have seen 700 to 1,000 patients sign up to their membership plan within the first few days. This has even happened in areas that are not considered affluent.

‘My team won’t like it’

Moving away from NHS dentistry to become a private practice is a big change. Many people are uncomfortable with change so it’s understandable they may not welcome it with open arms. Our experience at Practice Plan has shown us that one of the keys to a successful conversion is to have the whole team on board.

In the past, some members of the team who are resistant to change may have pushed back. However, we have seen a complete change recently and I have supported conversions where the change is being driven by the team, more often than not the associates within the practice.

The principal has told us in so many words that their associates no longer want to work under the pressures of an NHS contract so, unless the practice hands back the contract, they will leave. They want to work in a more relaxed environment where they can carry out the sort of dentistry that interests them and which they’re unable to do on the NHS.

While you may still experience some resistance from other members of the team, as long as their concerns are taken seriously and addressed, they’ll soon adjust. Especially once they start reaping the benefits of switching to private practice. Who doesn’t want a workload that’s manageable and offers the opportunity to build good relationships with their patients?

So, the times they are a-changing, which may mean it’s worth checking whether the obstacles that used to exist are still there or whether the way ahead is now clear.

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process 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 practiceplan.co.uk/nhs.

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