Introducing private dentistry into your practice

Introducing private dentistry into your practice

Practice Plan regional support manager Josie Hutchings outlines the benefits of introducing private dentistry into a practice.

Times in dentistry are hard, especially in NHS dentistry. Over the past few years practices have had to contend with the consequences of a total shutdown because of the pandemic, a backlog of patients clamouring for appointments as well as ever rising costs and a recruitment crisis. Add to this a contract that was described nearly 16 years ago by a select committee as ‘not fit for purpose’ and it’s no wonder that practices struggle to find associates willing to deliver their UDAs.

Mostly mixed

The recent workforce data published by the General Dental Council (GDC) revealed that only 15% of the practices who responded offered solely NHS treatment and 19% were private only. However, 41% of the practices were mixed, to a greater or lesser extent, which was the most prevalent business model amongst the 25,000 people who chose to respond to the GDC’s survey.

So, why are so many practices mixing NHS and private dentistry? This is one of the subjects we’ll be addressing during my panel discussion, ‘Building a future outside the NHS’ in the Dental Business Theatre at Dentistry Show Birmingham, on 17 and 18 May. The number of owners over the past two or three years who have chosen to introduce private dentistry into their practices has increased considerably. While some have handed back their whole contract, others have chosen to convert the lists of only one or two dentists to private only dentistry.

Less daunting approach

There are considerable benefits to this approach. Introducing private dentistry while still retaining an NHS contract for those who are risk averse, feels less drastic than handing back the whole contract. Giving up the security of the monthly NHS income can feel daunting for some.

Introducing a membership plan can help mitigate that drop in income. Having patients sign up to the practice’s own branded membership plan will provide a guaranteed monthly income. This is also something patients seem to be happy to do. In fact, in many of the practices we at Practice Plan have helped convert recently, patient sign up targets have been hit within weeks rather than the months/year we would have expected pre-pandemic.

Benefits all round

Membership plans have great benefits to both the practice and the patient. For the practice it offers a predictable monthly income which is great for cashflow. It affords the dentist greater flexibility as the monthly fees are collected regardless of whether they are working in the practice or not.

A membership plan also engenders patient loyalty. Patients become members of the practice which means they can expect to be able to get an appointment with a dentist at their practice. If they are paying a monthly fee to be part of the practice, then they are unlikely to seek treatment at another dental practice. They’re your patients.

They’re also more likely to attend their appointments than those who pay-as-they-go. As they’re paying a monthly sum to cover the cost of their oral health appointments, they are going to want to get their money’s worth. They would be wasting their own money by not attending their appointments.

Paying monthly for the plan membership isn’t only about spreading the cost for the patient, it’s about investing in their oral health. By attending the practice regularly, dental teams tell us that the oral health of plan members is usually better than that of non-members as any potential problems can be spotted early and nipped in the bud. This is great for the patient and, as they become dentally fit, it also provides an opportunity for the dentist to have conversations with them about elective or cosmetic treatments. They can think about whether they would like to improve their smile, not just maintaining it.

Relaxed atmosphere

One of the biggest benefits to the team of introducing private dentistry is the slower pace of work. Free of the target-based dentistry imposed by an NHS contract and its unrewarding charges, dentists can afford to spend more time with each patient. So many teams report how much more relaxed they feel working in private dentistry than in the revolving door atmosphere of the NHS.

Treatments can be explained fully so that the patient understands all the possible outcomes. As the dentist has more time to carry out procedures the risk of mistakes is lowered, which again reduces the stress on the team. If I had a pound for every time a dentist has said to me, ‘I wish I’d done it sooner’, I’d be very rich!

You decide!

Most importantly, as a private dentist you’re no longer bound by the NHS charging regime. You are free to set your own fees. As well as being able to charge realistic prices for your treatments, you can also choose not to charge as well. So, if you want to help a patient who’s struggling to afford private dentistry, you can choose to charge a lower fee or even do it for free. You decide, not the NHS.

However, retaining an NHS contract as you introduce private dentistry means, although there will be fewer NHS slots available to existing patients, there will still be some availability for patients who need it. For that reason, a partial conversion can be a softer way of doing things than handing back the whole contract. It’s a good way to build up a base of private clients while still providing access to NHS treatment. And, if it’s successful and if it suits the needs of the business, other dentists in the practice can follow suit at a later date.

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

For more information visit

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar