Leaving the NHS to move into private practice is a big decision, and one that dentists are contemplating more and more frequently. The introduction of a new NHS dental contract in 2006 spurred many to make the leap and, as another new contract looms, more dentists are considering it. To guage how dentists feel about moving from NHS to private, we carried out two surveys – one among dentists who still retain a significant number of patients on the NHS, and one among dentists who moved NHS patients to Denplan ahead of the 2006 Contract.
The first survey, of dentists who mostly had over half of their patients on the NHS and fewer than 250 patients in Denplan, took place in February this year. Their main worries about leaving the NHS included income issues (52%) and patient issues such as disappointing patients or losing them (36%). To give them confidence in converting to private care, they said they would need support in the form of business advice, another form of regular income in the practice and short term financial support. They would value support from professional and business organisations to help them make the switch, those bodies chiefly being the BDA, an accountant, and most of all Denplan.
The second survey, of Denplan ‘joiners’, questioned mainly practice owners, principals and partners with over 500 Denplan patients and less than a quarter of their patients on the NHS. They said their key reasons for making the move a decade ago included the feeling that the 2006 contract was not acceptable in terms of patient care, and their own desire to move into private practice. They are glad they did it. Overwhelmingly those who had completely left the NHS said they missed nothing about it. They had of course had concerns beforehand: those who had partially moved their patient base out of the NHS and into Denplan admitted that their fears had been similar to those of dentists currently weighing up a move: worries about patients’ reactions (49%); patient numbers falling (14%) and uncertainty about the feasibility of going private (33%).
Their fears have, however, been put to rest by their experience. 92% of Denplan member dentists who had made that transition rated the advice they had received from Denplan as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, and 86% rated Denplan’s support as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good.’ Denplan member dentist Dr Alison Crellin summed it up: ‘We couldn’t have made the change without Denplan. They provided good training and support during the conversion and continued support since,’ she said.
The ‘joiners’ had also found the range of Denplan support valuable: their Denplan Consultant (97%), training courses (96%), Denplan Practice Support Team(94%), professional support (91%), up-to-date information about the industry and Denplan (88%) and marketing assistance (82%).
Their practising life was improved, they said, with overwhelming numbers saying that it gave them more time with their patients, more freedom and the ability to do their job as they had been trained to do it. They felt the work was more fulfilling and more interesting (see figure 1).
Over two thirds of both groups commented that the current NHS contract was not conducive to ‘good patient care’, ‘good clinical dental treatment’ or ‘good patient communication,’ and 79% felt that it failed to demonstrate government support for NHS dentistry. A further exodus from the NHS looks likely, with 81% saying they would leave the NHS if the dental budget fell over the next five years, and four out of five saying they would do so if there were too many targets to manage.
It’s clear that the dissatisfaction with the current NHS contract and the uncertainty over the future of NHS dentistry are increasingly causing dentists to reconsider whether they want to stay in that system, or convert to private practice. Just as 10 years ago, they are concerned about possible loss of income and patients, but those who took the plunge back then, with the support of Denplan, are testament to the fact that those fears can be managed, and that overall their practising life has been greatly improved.
If you are pondering private dentistry, your dedicated local Denplan Consultant can take you through the options open to you and your patients, assisting you in choosing the best plan for your practice. With many years’ of conversion experience, we can help you make the move into private practice, either entirely, or in stages with our ‘Principal Only Transition’, enabling your practice to retain NHS patients while the principal develops a private patient base. Once you join Denplan it doesn’t stop there - our Practice Support Team are always on hand to ensure everything is running smoothly and successfully for you and your patients.
To find out more about NHS transitions, or how to become a member dentist, please request a call back or book an appointment with your local Dental Business consultant. You can also join the debate about NHS contract reform and follow us at @SHP_dentists #NHSStayInFront to stay up to date with the latest developments.
Source Information: Denplan NHS Survey, February 2016. The full version of this article appears on page 48 of Dentistry Magazine’s July edition.