Transitioning from NHS to private dentistry: a dentist's story

Published: 25/09/2020

Mital Patel explains how a Principal-only transition from NHS to Denplan payment plans has been so successful for him and his practice


How long have you been offering Denplan payment plans in your practice? 


Mital Patel: We joined Denplan in 2015/16, but it was in February 2017 we decided to go gung ho with it and perform a Principal-only transition. We recruited an associate who took over our NHS patients, and as the practice principal, I strictly see private or Denplan payment plan patients. That went into fruition in March 2017.


Why did you choose us to manage your patient plans?


Mital: It’s the product that stands up. Everyone has heard of Denplan payment plans. But mainly it’s the help that Denplan provides: support, marketing – everything comes as part of the package. Our Business Development Consultant, Sue Woodcock, was absolutely brilliant from day one. She trained our staff in the product, and offered support; she has been great.


Why did you choose to use a plan provider over a fee-per-item model for your private treatments?


Mital: The patient plan offers a lot more than just treatments. It helps us to get patients thinking about, and taking responsibility for, their oral health. Also, patient plans provide a steady practice income each month.


Why did you undergo a Principal-only transition rather than both you and your associate offering patient plan treatments?


Mital: I still see children on the NHS because there are a lot of children registered at our practice, but my associate came from an NHS background, and I wanted to make a clean break from the NHS. If I gave my adult patients the option to join the plan or stay on NHS treatment with the same dentist, it would have got complicated. I wanted to spend more time with my patients, offer treatments outside of the scope of the NHS, and utilise the extra training that I’ve invested in.

Now we’re in a position where we can potentially expand, adding another two surgeries, so that’s something we’re looking to do in the future.


Talk me through the steps of converting your NHS patients to Denplan payment plans through a Principal-only transition.


Mital: Sue came in and we discussed the direction we wanted to go in, and we provided her with a database of our patients. Sue made a mock-up of the number of patients she expected us to convert – she explained that 22% of patients on average are converted to Denplan payment plans. This was all drawn up, and we agreed to the targets. Next, we had a training day – a very nice day in a hotel with everything provided, and our staff were trained on how to answer patients’ questions. Measures were put in place so that when it came to conversion day, everything ran smoothly. On conversion day, our staff were armed with handouts and booklets, and Sue was on site to explain everything.


It sounds like your patients have been really receptive to the changes.


Mital: I’ve built a good relationship with my patients over the last decade, and that’s helped. I could identify the patients that wanted to stay being my patients, and those that wanted to stay as NHS patients. Many of my patients have been with me since the day I began working here as an associate, and wanted to keep that continuity of care.


How do we support you?


Mital: You provide all training on the product, provide literature for the patients, and marketing for the practice. There is a lot of support. Sue has changed area now, but all I ever had to do was pick the phone up and she was full of advice whenever I needed it. The transition to Denplan payment plans has worked really well for us. We were aiming for around 250 conversions, so to double that and keep going is incredible.


What are the main benefits of the Principal-only transition for you and your practice?


Mital: Product training is provided, as well as literature for the patients and marketing support for the practice. I can simply speak to patients, spend more time with them, and offer treatments that may be of interest. On a personal level, I’m able to attend more courses; I’m doing an orthodontics course at the moment and I’ve done dental implant and facial aesthetics courses, so it’s opened up my time a lot more. Also, with my associate, I know that if I go away, everything is covered. It’s made my life more stress-free.


Do you have any advice for practice principals thinking of conducting a Principal-only transition?


Mital: Take all the advice you are given on board, but tailor it to work for your patients. Try not to be pushy with patients – don’t make them feel like you’re trying to do a hard sell. Overall, I think a Principal-only transition is really worth it, especially if you’ve been working within the NHS for the last five to 10 years and you’ve built up a rapport with your patents.


It’s worth going for it. Patients know the NHS isn’t in a good state, there’s no more funding coming in, and NHS dentistry is suffering. We’ve taken on 500 plan patients, which essentially has opened up 500 slots for new NHS patients in the area. In theory, we’re serving the community more effectively by implementing this model. When we began the conversion, we had 4,000 patients registered with us. Within a year we have increased that to 6,000. Also, our website and Facebook pages are all up to date with the plan information, which has created interest among new patients.


I’ve advised my associate to build up a good rapport with her patients, so eventually, she can transition her patients to Denplan payment plans too. By that time, we will have hopefully opened a new surgery with a new associate who can take on NHS patients, and so the cycle continues.


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