Considerations when going private

Posted 13/08/2014

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The enhanced opportunities available through offering private dental care to patients often encourages practitioners to move away from NHS dentistry. Indeed the switch to private provision from an NHS contract may seem like a sure-fire way of increasing your income, but as with any major decision, there are advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed up before taking the final leap, as there are significant financial implications of moving to private dentistry from NHS.The current economic climate will always be a contributing factor to any such decision and the uncertainty caused by the recent financial decline undoubtedly caused a downturn in optimism across many industries, dentistry included. However, as the fog of recession starts to clear, it is possible to begin seeing positive changes developing within the profession, with more and more dentists seeing patients wanting more private work.Higher earning potentialOf course, with private practice comes the potential to earn considerably more money, and that potential looks set to grow further over the coming years. In 2013, a report published by Mintel forecasted strong growth in the industry, spurred on by the economic recovery. The report suggested that increased disposable income would lead to more patients seeking out private care, creating substantial growth in the profession by 2017 and 2018 (Mintel, 2013).However, with a private practice a lot depends on your marketing and the demand locally for private care. There is, of course, no guaranteed contract or income with private practice, and it can be potentially more difficult to get the patients through the door. It is important to ask: ‘Will the area support private dentistry? And will my existing patients want to change?’ Furthermore you will have to address the widespread misconception among the general public that private dental fees are beyond the means of those on low or middle incomes. It is paramount that dentists looking to either convert to private work, or increase their private book, work with professionals that can guide them in the right direction.More time with your patientsA significant advantage to private dentistry that your patients will see is the longer amount of time you are able to spend on each appointment due to the lack of UDA (units of dental activity) commitments and contract deadlines. This will enable you to spend more time detailing and explaining treatment plans and will raise confidence and trust in your patients.Furthermore, the patients that you are likely to see are more liable to be open to specialist treatments or cosmetically focused procedures, which will further help to increase your practice profits. Ultimately as a private dentist you will be seeing fewer patients, but they will be after more care.Loss of NHS benefitsAlthough a private practice’s earning potential is significantly higher, a dentist must consider the ramifications to their own personal finances and future pecuniary situation. By going private you would no longer be entitled to the NHS Pension scheme, maternity pay or death benefits. The loss of access to these schemes will have implications for the future, so these additional costs need to be taken into consideration when making the move to offering private dental care.The risks of conversion can be greatly reduced by working with an established dental plan provider like DPAS, as plans can offer consistent revenue streams, as well as the opportunity for forward financial planning. Patients will be able to budget for private care through monthly payments and will therefore attend regularly, offering plenty of opportunities to recommend further treatments.More practice controlBecoming a private dentist could lead to increased opportunities for expansion into specialised clinical areas, ie orthodontics, implants or endodontics. Indeed one of the most attractive aspects to private dentistry is the enhanced control of your pract