Unlocking Opportunities in NHS Patient Enquiries

The decline in NHS dentistry access has led to a surge in patients seeking an alternative dental care provision, with many mixed practices offering private care being inundated with calls from patients urgently seeking dental appointments. When handled correctly, these enquiries could translate into a substantial amount of long-term revenue. However, seizing these opportunities requires careful handling and a thoughtful strategy. In this article, Patient Plan Direct will explore how dental practices can effectively turn these NHS patient enquiries into opportunities for growth.

Don’t rush into a sales pitch

Private practices often find themselves grappling with enquiries from patients in search of NHS treatment. A prevailing strategy among some practices is to decline NHS treatment and then attempt to sell the patient a private plan. However, the success rate of this approach has proven to be inconsistent at best.

One crucial mistake to avoid is rushing into a sales pitch without first understanding the patient’s needs or building rapport. Offering a solution without a thorough understanding of the underlying problem decreases the chances of success. Handled correctly, these calls can be converted into appointments, fostering long-term loyalty. Here are some essential steps to transform these calls into positive outcomes.

Connect with the patient

Initiate the conversation by getting to know the patient. Start with a simple introduction and ask how they heard about the practice – for example, was it through word of mouth or had they seen a local advertisement? Personalise the interaction by asking their name and using it throughout the conversation, demonstrating genuine interest. Instead of outright stating that NHS services are not offered, consider a more open-ended approach such as, “We operate independently of the NHS (or, we’ve reached capacity to see NHS patients), but we may be able to assist you. Can I ask a few questions to better understand your needs?”

This approach keeps the conversation open, allowing you to gather more information about the patient’s situation. If they’ve faced multiple ‘no’s’ from other practices, your willingness to help and find out more about their situation will give you that edge.

Understand the patient’s needs

Demonstrate interest by understanding the patient’s problem or need. When asking questions, listen attentively and empathise with their responses. By adopting this approach, your practice sets itself apart as one that genuinely cares, especially if the patient has faced rejections from other practices – including their original NHS practice.

Offer a solution to the patient

Once the root of the problem is identified, proceed to offer a tailored solution. This could range from emergency appointments for those in immediate pain to consultations for those looking to register with a new practice. This is then the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of a membership plan, emphasising how manageable monthly payments make the cost of oral healthcare more affordable, along with other benefits including reducing the risk of serious oral issues with regular attendance, and additional perks such as Dental Accident and Emergency (A&E) cover. For transparency, you should clearly communicate the associated fees and the services included from the outset.

Get the patient to commit

The final stage is to ask the patient if they would like to schedule an appointment. While some may agree, others may decline and continue their search for an NHS practice – which suggests they weren’t the right fit for your practice.

While success is not guaranteed every time, practices employing this approach have reported increased acceptance rates of new patients. Moreover, several practices have witnessed a substantial increase of plan patients and new patients. As these stats indicate, the cumulative effect of monthly fees from these patients can significantly contribute to a practice’s financial growth.

Ensure your front-of-house team is well-prepared

To ensure success and to avoid any missed opportunities, it is imperative that your front-line team is appropriately trained to handle these calls effectively. With the right approach, these seemingly challenging enquiries can pave the way for substantial practice growth.

For dental practices seeking comprehensive support in handling NHS patient enquiries and maximising dental plan growth opportunities, feel free to book an exploratory meeting with the Patient Plan Direct team by calling 0344 848 6888 or complete our online form and we’ll call you back.

Get started with us

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.