NHS to Private Dentistry Conversion

Diary of an NHS to Private Dentistry Conversion: A Practice’s Journey

Basin Road Dental Surgery, located in Chichester, has been a cornerstone of dental care since 2006. With three surgeries, the Principal Dentist, Dr Matthew Hartley, had considered leaving the NHS due to the challenges of recruiting NHS dentists, leading to prolonged waiting times for patients seeking routine examinations and treatments.

Meeting the targets of the Units of Dental Activity (UDA) was also challenging—the whole team was exhausted trying to meet their targets. Matthew resisted leaving the NHS for a long time due to the government’s promise to reform the UDA system. However, as this reform never came, he decided to explore an NHS to Private Dentistry Conversion, which was necessary to secure the viability of his business.

Matthew and the team decided to explore an NHS to Private conversion with the help of a suitable dental plan provider. After researching various options, including Denplan, Practice Plan, and Lloyd and White, a recommendation from a trusted associate led them to Patient Plan Direct (PPD). The practice recognised the alignment of values, significant cost-savings compared to other providers, and the expertise offered by PPD, which made it the ideal choice for their conversion journey.

Two months into their journey, Matthew shares his experience in his own words:

Deciding on the types of plans, plus the private fees

I discussed the private fee rates with our dedicated Business Development Manager (BDM), Janice. Initially, when calculating the appropriate membership plan fee and uptake target to replace the current NHS income (alongside private treatment income), we based the rate on our current private fees for routine examinations, hygiene visits, and small X-rays. However, considering that we adjust our private fees every April, Janice worked with us to recalculate the plan fee based on the updated private fee structure, effective from 1st April. This planning ensured that the plan fee would be cost-effective for the patient in light of the new private fees while maintaining profitability for the practice.

Issuing the Contract Termination Letter to the NHS

Patient Plan Direct drafted the termination letter, which explained the details of the dental plans my practice would offer to our patients and our intention to hand back our NHS contract. Panic set in, though, as it took the NHS three weeks to confirm they had received our information! It emphasised the broken system his practice was leaving behind, and I was keen to proceed.

Promotional Literature

The Patient Plan Direct team provided a catalogue of designs for our printed literature, which would promote our dental plan offering. I chose a style, which PPD then modified to incorporate our practice’s logo and brand colours. It was great to know we’d promote our brand rather than that of a corporate plan provider; it made it more personal to our practice.

Once we approved the design, it was swiftly printed, and away we went!

NHS Conversion Training with the team

We had two training sessions. The first was with our BDM, who was in practice. Having someone knowledgeable about the conversion process with us reassured the whole team. Other members of PPD we had contact with were also there to support us further.

Our second team training session was online, explicitly about the easy-to-use online client portal. This session lasted 30 minutes because it is a straightforward online platform—it is a simple yet effective system for creating reports, adding patients, making amendments, etc.

Time to send the letter to our patients!

There were over 2,500 letters mailed out. Due to Royal Mail delays, we expected letters to drop on a Friday, but initial uptake seemed slow. However, our Business Development Manager was in practice on this day and assured us that postal delays could occur with Royal Mail and that we didn’t need to worry. She was right because the following day, with two Patient Plan Direct team members in the practice to assist us, we had 143 registrations! I was thinking, “This is more like it!”. However, I was skeptical about whether we could reach our target to ensure the conversion succeeded.

End of Week One

I needn’t have worried. By the end of week one, we had almost reached half of our initial target of patients signed up to a plan. This was such a brilliant feeling, as I never thought we’d have had so many so soon. I was going on holiday after week one, so I knew I could relax and not worry about the process!

The team handled some challenging patient conversations well in practice, which was helped by the training we received. One person in particular made quite a scene at the reception desk. However, they haven’t left the practice, which was a testament to our team’s professionalism. Overall, we responded positively, with patients surprised we had stayed with the NHS for this long! This reassured us about our decision to convert.

End of Week Two

When I returned to work, I was thrilled to discover that we had already reached over 60% of our target for patient sign-ups to a plan! The relief and satisfaction were overwhelming. We couldn’t believe how quickly people had decided to join. Not long after this, we hit our target, which was a great success for our team.

Our NHS Contract Is Coming To An End

We eagerly work hard to complete our last NHS appointments before becoming a private practice. The team and I are filled with anticipation and excitement about the transition. We look forward to going from approximately 40 patients a day to a maximum of 25 patients. This new working environment means we can develop a more personal service for patients because we have the time to do so. Our practice team is excited about not being mentally rushed off their feet and always chasing their tail, having that little bit longer to process instruments, etc, as NHS dentistry can be very hectic. When we get into our new working routine, we’ll hopefully have success recruiting an Associate Dentist, further contributing to our growth and success.

Advice from Matthew

If you’re a Principal Dentist contemplating an NHS to Private Dentistry Conversion, seize the opportunity. Trust in the expertise of those with the knowledge to do this. Our transition has been incredibly smooth, thanks to the exceptional support from the entire team at PPD. They’ve been unwavering in their guidance, addressing every concern and standing by us every step of the way. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.

For dental practices looking for NHS to Private conversion support, contact us to book an exploratory meeting with the Patient Plan Direct team by calling 0344 848 6888 or completing our online form, and we shall be in touch to advise how we can make your transition to private dentistry a success.

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