How Richard found a way to be happy in dentistry again

How Richard found a way to be happy in dentistry again

Be happy – how a dentist who had fallen out of love with his career has regained his mojo since moving away from the NHS.

Having co-owned his practice Duston Dental since 2007, when the pandemic arrived in 2020 Richard Staincliffe was already beginning to tire of all the red tape surrounding his NHS contract. His time spent working at a slower pace during the restrictions of COVID gave him a taste of, as he says, ‘what life was like on the other side’.

As restrictions came to an end and things returned to ‘normal’ the Duston team found themselves subject to huge clawback. Richard was also able to spend time reflect on his work/life balance during lockdown. He was left with conclusion that he no longer wanted to work at the same pace as before or even run a practice anymore.

After speaking with his co-owners, they decided that selling the practice would be the best way forward. However, this plan was scuppered when they lost the equivalent of three-and-a-half full-time employees within a two-week period.

Change of tack

Attempts at recruitment failed leaving Richard and his partners facing the prospect of being neither able to fulfil their contract nor sell the practice.

‘I think we got one CV for any of the posts from someone who didn’t want the job in the end. And we just could not recruit for NHS work,’ he explains. ‘We were now facing the same problems as every other practice up and down the country.’

As he appreciated the severity of their situation, Richard says he felt ‘pretty rock bottom at this point, and I didn’t know what to do’.

The answer to their problems was found at a Practice Plan event. Richard’s business partner, Andrew Lamb, had been invited as the ‘plus one’ of fellow dentist to attend the Club Weekend in Portugal in 2022 where he met many dentists who were happy with how their practice was performing.

‘He spoke to people from across the country. So, in areas we would not necessarily think are quite affluent ones. Just very standard areas up and down the country. And they were all saying “We don’t have to worry about the health service side of things. Things are good, we’re doing brilliant”,’ he recounts. ‘And Andrew also said during COVID, Practice Plan supported everybody by really looking after the patients and the dentists. And by and large, everyone’s still got their businesses.’

Prepared and supported

When he came back from that event Andrew laid out the partners’ options: watch the business fail or try a different approach. Which is when they called Practice Plan.

Richard is fulsome in his praise of the support he and the team received from Practice Plan throughout the whole of the conversion process. He feels the tone was set during the first meeting with sales support manager, Michelle Hardy, and regional support manager, Jo Phillpot.

‘They basically took us under their wing and said, “Richard, Andy, Cerys, it’s going to be all right”,’ Richard recalls.

From then on, the team felt prepared and supported for all that lay ahead of them during the conversion.

Superb support

One of the trickier parts of handing back an NHS contract is dealing with the reactions of patients. Especially for a well-established practice like Duston. However, despite the stress of this, the practice team was prepared.

‘I knew it was coming and Michelle and Jo were fantastic about it,’ Richard says. ‘They were very much up front and said, “Look, it’s going to be tough”. I tried to stick my head in the sand a little bit and pretend it wouldn’t happen. But you can’t do that. As a leader of the team, you have to be upfront and keep people motivated.

‘So, we were ready for it when it hit us. Of course it was like a train in the face, but it wasn’t anything different to what I was expecting. So, Practice Plan preparing us for that really did help. And also, the fact that we had two people on site from Practice Plan through the whole first two weeks of the conversion process was so helpful. We could not have done it without them.’

As well as the practical support offered by Michelle and Jo, Richard appreciated their moral support too.

‘They were such a helpful team,’ Richard adds. ‘They trained our team, and they helped look after people; giving people’s backs a rub when things didn’t go quite right. They bought us cookies and treats to keep our spirits up. And when some of our receptionists were getting an absolute earful from a really angry patient, they pulled them aside and reassured them, “This is not about you, personally” and really helped them.’


Several months down the line, things have settled and, according to Richard, the atmosphere in the practice is much calmer.

‘I think things are certainly a lot more positive, for sure. I know my interactions with my team are a lot better too. And the phone isn’t ringing off the hook as much.’

However, one of the biggest changes has been to Richard’s attitude towards work. Gone are the days when he was planning to leave dentistry to do something completely different. He’s now happily looking forward to helping to grow the business.

‘I can see the future now,’ he says. ‘I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I’ve told people, “I’m going to be here for another 15 years.” That’ll take me through pretty much to retirement. And that’s what I want to do now really because I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy looking after people now.’

Practice Plan has been welcoming practices into the family since 1995, helping them to grow profitable businesses through the introduction of practice-branded membership plans.

With over 300 years’ of dental experience in our field team, if you’re looking for a provider that has that family feel but knows a thing or two about dentistry… Be Practice Plan and get in touch.

Call 01691 684165 or visit

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