Great barrier relief – no need for self-doubt

Great barrier relief – no need for self-doubt

Practice Plan shares Anju Jairath’s story – one of Anju’s biggest barriers to converting from NHS to private dentistry was self-doubt.

Deciding whether to leave the NHS for private dentistry is possibly one of the biggest business decisions a practice owner will make in their career. So, it’s understandable that the prospect of such a change may stir up some powerful emotions.

Fear and self-doubt are two of the most frequently expressed emotional responses to the idea of handing back an NHS contract.

Practice Plan regional support manager (RSM) Josie Hutchings has worked with many dentists in her 22 years with the company. They often express fears that they ‘aren’t good enough’ to be a private dentist. In some cases, this self-doubt has inhibited them to such an extent that it becomes a barrier preventing them from making the change.

The restrictions of NHS contracts can sap dentists’ confidence in their skills leaving them feeling unwilling to charge the sort of prices expected in private practice. Despite having been through the same initial training as their private colleagues, they can come to see themselves as performing dentistry of a lower standard than private practice. They charge more, so they must be better.

However, those who overcome their fears discover that their dentistry is good enough and if they have gaps in their skills their slower working pace means they can take courses to fill in those gaps.

Anju Jairath, dentist

A dentist who Josie and Practice Plan helped to navigate this change is Anju Jairath of Allestree Dental in Derby. Anju admits to having experienced doubts about her own fitness to be a fully private dentist. Here, she recounts how her misgivings, fuelled in part by her self-confessed imposter syndrome, caused her to be apprehensive. 

I did think: ‘I’m not good enough.’

I would attend courses, and when asked if anyone was still working under the NHS contract, I would get looked down upon.

People would comment: ‘Oh my God, why are you still working within the NHS?’

I would defend myself by telling them many of the patients opted for private treatment. But it did make me feel I wasn’t good enough because I still worked within the NHS.

The hurdle of cost

One hurdle I had to overcome was we had got used to being paid so little for delivering so much, I wasn’t convinced patients would pay the fees we were proposing as they had been accustomed to NHS charges. Seeing on paper what fees we were planning, it pulled me up short. I had a lot of guilt about leaving the NHS; especially for children and those on benefits. 

The turning point came when the other associate in our practice left, and I was drowning in UDAs. I had got to the point of wanting to leave dentistry altogether. So, we contacted Practice Plan. I had many patients on the plan already, but now I was ready for the full conversion. 

When introducing a plan, a Practice Plan regional support manager, like Josie, will sit with you to calculate your fees for each plan and treatment. Also, Josie helped determine the number of patients I would need. My plan fees are as little as £9 a month, which sounds reasonable and affordable.

If you were to attend as a private patient, not on plan, then suddenly, we’d be charging X amount for an exam and X amount for a scale and polish. I was concerned about the reaction I would get from long standing patients.

I thought: ‘Gosh, they’re paying nearly four times as much as they would have done on the NHS! Am I worth that much? Can I really charge that, and would they pay or leave? Would my book become empty?’

Those were the genuine worries and anxieties I had, and they stemmed from having been paid so little for what we were delivering over the many years. We offered a good NHS service, which I’m sure a lot of practices do. But, we were the victims of our own success.

As a fully private dentist, Anju discovered her fears were unfounded

The patients can see I’m much happier and I’ve found my love for dentistry again, which I had lost especially during COVID-19. It has been amazing. Now I’m out the other side I feel like I can breathe again.

I’m not worrying about targets and gaps in the diary. Sometimes my patient and I will chat about the treatment and sometimes we’ll just chat. Also, it reminds me why I went into the job: I wanted to care for people. I genuinely enjoy seeing people and getting to know them. This helps build rapport and care for the patient as an individual, not just teeth and gums. I have patients I have been seeing for 20 years now and they are like old friends.

Working as a private dentist, not doing any NHS, doesn’t change how I feel about my patients, how I want to treat them, or what I’m going to provide for them. As a private dentist you have extra time to talk to your patients which gives you more options to consider. Your clinical skills don’t need to be different. You’re just providing your dentistry at a pace you can cope with, and you’re happier with. 

It’s about having the time to explain different options that are not available on the NHS. I can explore things at length without being dictated by time constraints. I can give patients time to consider the options and most importantly, I am no longer fretting about UDA targets.  

Advice to NHS dentists

It’s been a breath of fresh air, but it took me a while to appreciate that. Then one day I realised: ‘I am  lucky! I get to chat to people and treat them how I would like to.’ It has been quite a journey, but I do feel it’s been so worth it. 

To anyone considering making the move from NHS to private but feeling as though there are barriers in their way, I would tell them these are barriers that everyone has felt. You’ll be fine. Just do it. If you feel how I felt, just do it and you’ll come out the other side. You’ll be so much happier, and your patients will benefit too.

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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