Thinking of transitioning from NHS to private?

The lasting effects of the pandemic have meant that every business in every sector has had to adapt and are continuing to make ongoing changes in order to grow and move forward. The dental industry is no exception, with the market seeing an increase in private dentistry work. This appears to be the result of various factors including reduced NHS availability, surplus cash and the “Zoom effect”. It remains to be seen whether this increase is sustainable in the longer term.

Current inflationary pressures also have an effect. Consumer price inflation has increased from 2.1% in July 2021 to 8.8% in July 2022 with much speculation in the press about how high inflation will peak. Of course, a peak is just that – inflation will still be high and without a fall to more normal levels, further pressure will be placed on NHS dental services. With rising costs, recruitment issues and a 4.5% NHS contract uplift, it is no surprise that many dentists are considering whether to convert to private.

Whilst there can be issues with the NHS, be they financial or administrative, often the NHS contract can form the backbone of the practice’s patient base on which additional private services can be built. Contract reforms have recently been announced, including a minimum UDA value of £23 and higher UDA allocations for treating three or more teeth or undertaking more complex treatment. These are due to be implemented in the autumn and it remains to be seen whether these changes will prove effective at addressing concerns over some aspects of the NHS contract.

The decision to convert is not one to be taken lightly. There are benefits of staying in the NHS, including:

  • access to the NHS pension scheme
  • sick pay
  • maternity/paternity pay
  • death in service

The cost of replacing these would need to be factored in; independent financial advice is essential.

Benefits of converting to private include:

  • more clinical freedom
  • the ability to set your own prices
  • the availability to spend more time with patients
  • less admin and bureaucracy
  • a better work/life balance

Points for consideration

If you are currently weighing up your options, here are some further points to consider:

  • is conversion viable? Consider where you are in your career, what your future plans are and whether a change such as this is right for you
  • where is your practice located? Is there an appetite for private dentistry in the area?
  • what effect will the cost of living crisis have on private dental income levels?
  • will your existing patients be open to moving to private?
  • what will your staff think? How will you ensure their support, as they will be at the front line of the change, dealing with patient queries etc?
  • how will you communicate this change?
  • how will you deal with the loss of the regular monthly NHS income? A private payment plan is a sensible option
  • how many patients will you need for the practice to be financially viable? Very often you will not need as many as you think and could generate similar or greater profit levels from fewer patients. Careful planning to ensure the numbers work is needed
  • consider timescales and put a plan in place. Ideally, you should aim for a sufficient transition period to plan for and implement the change

Whatever your current situation, whether you are NHS or private, looking to convert or not, Hazlewoods specialist team of dental accountants and business advisers, with more than 30 years’ sector experience, is here to support you.

For further tailored advice, please contact Partner, James Morter, or Associate Partner, Nigel Utting, on 01242 680000.