Case study: How we made a successful NHS conversion
Zoe Sharp — Practice Manager : Alexandra Dental Care
Here she explains how the running of an NHS contract led to the decision to choose to convert and what difference it made to the practice once it took place.
“For us, there were just too many things we were compromising on — the time we could spend with our patients, the quality of care we were offering and the range of treatments we could offer — and that’s all because we were under intense pressure to meet the demand of our onerous UDA contract. It came to a point where we didn’t want to have to make these compromises anymore; we wanted to work in a much calmer and relaxed environment where we could offer our patients the high-quality service they deserved without feeling under pressure to meet the requirements of something that was out of our control.
We realised private practice was our only option, but the initial thought of losing the regularity of an NHS income left us feeling quite nervous and unsettled, plus we had so many other questions we just didn’t know the answers to — how would we go private? Would a change affect the job security of our staff? Would we keep enough patients to stay afloat? We just didn’t know whether we were making the right decision and, if we were, how to go about putting the wheels in motion.
We soon learned that a patient membership plan could help us maintain the regularity of an income and, if we chose the right provider, we would have an experienced pair of hands to support us through the transition. We wanted a plan provider with the experience, knowledge, expertise and track record to lead us through the change and wanted them to offer us guidance and support at every step but still leave us in control of the process. Not much to ask, but we knew from our very first meeting with our Practice Plan Regional Support Manager, Josie Hutchings, that she could offer us just that. She took the time to listen to our situation and really got under the skin of who we are and what we wanted to achieve, so instantly we knew we would be driving the change, but with her support.
Practice Plan supported us in setting our own fees, devising the plan of how to communicate the change to the wider team and our patients, and much more. Josie was even there on the day we started the conversion to support us! She delivered the team’s training session to ensure they were confident in the plan and talking to patients about the change. Although we did everything at our pace and the way we wanted to, she gave us the foundation to build on, supporting us every step of the way.
The move to private was definitely worthwhile! Practice life is just what we envisaged it to be when we set about going private — less stressful, less pressured and much more relaxed and patient focused! We’re no longer rushing around trying to meet the requirements of an NHS contract, but instead we’re in control of how we run the practice. We can allow as much time as we need to treat our patients and we’re able to offer a higher quality of care and greater range of treatments that we just weren’t able to whilst we were under the NHS. And, it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be here without the ongoing support of Practice Plan!”
Zoe Sharp is Practice Manager at Alexandra Dental Care, based in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. In 2006 the practice underwent a conversion from NHS dentistry to private practice.
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