In keeping with the last few posts on the future of UK dentistry, Chris Barrow shares his top 10 observations about UK dentistry after 3 months of touring:
- The City is backing dentistry. The announcement last week that J D Hull has sold a £20m stake to a City investment banker is a sure sign that institutions and corporates are taking a look at the £3bn a year private dental market. Watch out for another Boots Dentalcare on the high street in 2007;
- The move towards private conversion gathers pace. At the 6-month revue of UDA targets, many principals have recognised that the letters “UDA” stand for
And so the exodus from the NHS continues – surprisingly in some areas such a Scotland and Northern Ireland where a version of nGDS has not even yet happened. Those practices who are converting and offering membership schemes are reporting rapid and successful uptake from patients who, in the main, are saying “we knew it would happen and can understand why.”
- Smaller dental practices are becoming family businesses. I’ve noticed a new breed of practice managers emerging – either the male of female spouse of the principal, who is leaving full-time employment to concentrate on supporting their partner in developing the practice. Many of these spousal practice managers have either the experience of working in a corporate, of having run their own business or a degree in business management – and they are bringing a fresh and welcome perspective.
- Children are being offered private dentistry. There are many rumours that the “child-only” PCT contract will soon be consigned to history. Many practitioners have anticipated that by introducing a children’s’ version of their existing membership scheme. Acceptance levels from their parents are extremely high.
- Associate remuneration is beginning to fall. In London and the Home Counties, advertising for associate positions is moving down towards 35% or fixed salary. PCT’s are encouraging dentists to replace “expensive” associates on 50% contracts.
The success of an associate will become based on productivity targets being met. The ball park figures for an associate on a 50% contract are:
a.Up to £12,000 per month gross the principal is probably losing money at 50%, you should be paying 35%;
b.£12-15,000 per month, pay 40%;
c.£15-18,000 per month, pay 45%;
d.£18-21,000 per month, pay 50%;
e.Over £21,000 per month, pay 55%.
- Polish associates are starting to go back to Poland. That’s because they are being recruited to work in NHS practices that are offering 2 ½ minute check-ups and they are sick of it. Recruitment of immigrant associates is now about replacing those who are returning home. The latest recruits are from Portugal and Greece – the Polish phenomenon in dentistry is stabilising;
- Care nurses are slowly beginning to appear. Dentists are buying in to the “Paddi Lund” philosophy and passing more of the patient communication and treatment co-ordination to specially trained nurses. Therapists are still emerging and haven’t “happened” yet;
- Orthodontists are going private. Let’s face it – they have to! The PCT’s have mainly deserted them and the Government have decided that straight teeth for kids are a luxury that they are no longer prepared to pay for. So the teenagers who get braces will be those whose parents are willing to invest;
- Marketing is becoming more important. The Welcome Pack, Referral Card, Smile Check, Patient Journey, Corporate Image, Web site. All that stuff I’ve been blathering on about for ages – it’s all coming true! You have to be a successful retailer now to build a profitable dental practice. Crappy dental practices are looking crappier by the week!
- Sales are going to carry on increasing. The public are buying 90-minute tooth whitening, they are buying white fillings, they are buying “top banana” crowns, they are buying adult ortho, they are buying implants – and they are increasingly using finance schemes to spread the cost – you cannot afford to work without a good membership scheme to spread the cost of routine dental healthcare and finance schemes to spread the cost of cosmetic treatment.
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