‘Any time is a good time to convert’ – advice from an NHS to private expert

Simon Gallier first transitioned a practice to private dentistry 30 years ago – here he shares some advice for those looking to convert.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the practices and when they converted from NHS.

I’m Simon Gallier, I’ve been a dentist for 40 years now. I have four practices in the north of England and North Wales, three of which were completely private. Then we bought a completely NHS practice four years ago.

I had previous experience of converting my own practice 30 years ago. I converted it from a mixed practice into completely private, which was very successful at the time. I’ve run private practices ever since and then was offered this NHS practice.

The idea was that we were meant to be slowly converting it from a mixed practice – or mainly NHS – gradually to completely private. But in the end, just over 18 months ago we decided to go the whole hog and just convert the whole thing.

Was losing patients ever a concern for you and did that ultimately turn out to be the case?

Again, I suppose because of what happened previously 30 years ago, I’ve been totally comfortable moving from NHS to private. As a lot of people will say, you actually have to lose some patients because you can’t treat that many of them. But you actually then find out the ones who really want to stay with you. They’re, dare I say, the nicer patients and you get rid of the ones who actually don’t care about you. Really, they’re best going.

You ought to lose up to a third of your patients. I wouldn’t necessarily like to say good riddance to them, but I do believe the two thirds who stay are the ones who really appreciate you and are really looking forward to staying with you.

In general, would you say that now is a good time to convert? If so, why?

I would say any time is a good time to convert. I was convinced 30 years ago that you should convert. People are nervous for all sorts of reasons. But in my experience NHS dentistry has only been going one way in the last 30 or 40 years, which is slowly downhill. It reached a crisis in 2006 – it’s a bigger crisis now.

I think there’s still people who are still nervous for some reason, but certainly in my 30 years I do not know one single dentist that’s ever made the conversion from mixed or fully NHS to private that said that sort of said, ‘Oh, I wish I could go back. I so missed the NHS.’ Not one single dentist. If you think about it and do it properly, you’ll never regret it. It’s always wonderful.

How was your personal experience of converting with Practice Plan? 

This conversion was slightly different in that it was an associate led business and I wasn’t working in the practice. With hindsight I probably should have put a bit more attention into it.

Ideally, a practice is either with someone like myself in the practice on a regular basis to make sure everything is running smoothly and totally bought into the process. Or, a principal is already working in the practice and that makes it run much more smoothly.

Otherwise you have to ensure that the associates that are in the business are fully bought into that. Again, with hindsight, my associates probably weren’t fully bought into it and therefore they weren’t necessarily absolutely pro.

However, having said that we’re now coming up to two years into the process and we didn’t do a gradual process. We literally handed our contract back and said: ‘Right, that’s it as of 1 April. No more. We’re going private.’

Both associates that we had at the time have both left. We’ve now got superb associates and we’ve just started another session recently who are fully bought into it. The staff love it because it is all calm now and the practice isn’t the same fast and furious NHS system. And therefore, as I said, there is a calm now in the practice and everybody is really enjoying the dentistry.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m more than happy to speak to anybody who wants to talk to me about it. I’ve done it once. I’ve done it twice. All I can say is that you won’t regret it if you do it, and really now’s the time to do it – as good a time as any.

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.

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