NHS to private conversions – ‘no sign of things slowing down’

Katrina Rees and Suki Singh discuss the trend throughout 2023 of practices converting from NHS to independent dentistry and whether it will continue.

‘There’s been a massive spike in the number of practices making the jump completely from NHS into independent dentistry’ is one of Practice Plan area manager Katrina James’ comments on the NHS dental landscape in 2023. A point echoed by her fellow area manager Suki Singh.

Despite covering different parts of the UK (Kat the South and Suki the North) their experiences of NHS dentistry bear many similarities. Recruitment and retention are still significant problems for practices for all members of the team. Hygienists and dental nurses are equally as difficult to find as dentists.

Differences? ‘Reform, reform, reform’ is how Kat sums up the situation for practices in Wales, with frequent changes to contracts. Whereas elsewhere in the UK, Suki sees too few changes to contracts driving dentists to make the choice to leave the NHS.

‘Forced to leave NHS dentistry to save their business’

However, an experience they have in common is the inconsistent approach by integrated care boards (ICBs) or local health boards (LHBs) being adopted when faced with practices wanting to hand back their contracts. In Wales, Kat sees in some areas enhanced UDA values being offered to dentists as an incentive when contracts go out to tender. However, this is still too little to stem the flow of practices leaving for private dentistry.

Costs continue to rise at a faster rate than contract values. Many practices have therefore felt forced to leave NHS dentistry to save their business from going under. While a shift in patient attitude, coupled with demonstrable local successes have provided the final push to step away from their contracts and make the move to private dentistry.

The fact that many of their patients greet news of the change with ‘I’m surprised you haven’t done it sooner’ highlights their greater understanding of the problems NHS dentists face, and their willingness to pay for private dentistry.

And for 2024? More of the same!

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and are looking for a plan 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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