I thought my practice was doing ok. We’re a 7 surgery practice with a decent NHS contract and we were 100% focused on this. I was busy chasing UDA’s and being a trainer for two foundation dentists. Therefore, I had no time for running the business side of the practice or dealing with staff issues and was happy to bury my head in the sand and let my practice manager deal with the day-to-day running of the practice. I was doing more and more clinical hours and carrying more and more of the UDA burden.
This meant I was ignoring problem members of staff, empty chair time, and low staff morale. We had no plan of what we were doing except that we had to reach our UDA target at all costs. I also hadn’t realised my practice manager was not coping with her role and was about to throw in the towel and leave, as she was so unhappy.
It was at this point Lindsey joined the team. She saw things with a fresh pair of eyes and questioned why we did things in a certain way. She was able to identify our weaknesses and came up with a plan to deal with these issues and also how we could improve and grow the business.
After introducing the plan and structure, things started improving quickly. The problem of staff members deciding to leave disappeared and the overall staff morale changed for the better.
Lindsey identified that the practice was completely dependent on the NHS contract we had, and questioned if this was a wise strategy, especially as the contract value was effectively frozen, and our costs were going up year on year. She was able to show me it was better to have lots of different customers rather than just one, the NHS.
She also saw things from a patient’s perspective, what they saw when they came to the practice, and what did they want from the practice. As a result, we started to offer alternatives to the NHS and started to change what we offered to our patients.
Both the team and I, had doubts about this approach, as the practice is in a North Yorkshire market town, which was historically dependant on the long gone coal mining industry. However, Lindsey was able to show us the potential benefits of this, and we agreed to give it a go. It soon became apparent we had underestimated what are patients wanted, and they were delighted to be given different options.
Following on from this, Lindsey made me question what I was doing with my clinical time, and how did I value this. Why was I spending all my time on low-value UDA’s, and the poor financial return I was getting from being involved with vocational training? This was a difficult decision for me to face as although I didn’t enjoy the UDA treadmill, I did enjoy my teaching role, and the extra income this gave me. However, I knew I couldn’t continue as I was, and something had to give. The decision was made that I would leave the NHS and only see patients on a private basis, and make better use of the surgeries that were being used for foundation training.
This wasn’t easy but the plan Lindsey established meant I had the support of everyone at the practice. It also meant investing in the practice, but I wish I had done it years ago. I now enjoy going to work again. The whole team has reaped the benefits, with high morale, and everyone earning more. We also have happier patients.
To date, our turnover has increased by 36%, and our profits by 48%. We have maintained our NHS contract but a third of the practice income is now private. We now have a fantastic practice reputation, which brings us lots of new patients. We have had to add a new surgery and take on a private only associate, to cope with the demand. We have also just started the conversion of one of our associates from the NHS to private only, and this should see a continued increase in turnover and profit.