How to become a private dentist in The UK?
The demand for dental services has been fairly stable for the past five years or so. If anything, the dental sector has been seeing incessant activity with a gradual increase in the need for excellent dental professionals and top-notch dental services. This non-relinquishing dental environment is constantly fed with a knack for competition and a loyal strive for excellence, both of which can be extremely valuable qualities advancing dentists are required to earn if they want to achieve concurrent success.
A dental climate as unforgiving as that of the UK can only mean one thing – the NHS. Most dentists, even the ones you may know, involuntarily gravitate towards prestigious positions under the NHS like moths to flames. A majority of dentists perform well under the protective cloak of the NHS and are seemingly content with earning a salary as an associate. The idea to buy or open one’s own practice rarely makes a feature, most often due to their lackadaisical attitudes or the uncertainty of going solo.
However, there is a good proportion of dental professionals who aspire to be much more than just an associate. If you have been harrowed by career prowess immediately after university or have endured a certain level of burnout in a seemingly secured NHS position, or maybe have gathered adequate business accolades and enough courage to roam “free-range”, you’re not alone. In fact, in 2017, we saw over 12K private dental clinics in the UK – a number that has only drastically increased over these last 5 years.
Buying a new dental practice can be overwhelming and it may seem like a lot is at stake for you and your business partners. But at the end of the day, there is nothing as rewarding as being your own boss. As comes with the various benefits of owning your own practice, namely professional independence and freedom, it isn’t just the financial costs that you’ll have to keep an eye out for. In order to be able to strike out on your own in this fierce privatized arena, you’ll need to know a few things to get started.
STEPS TO BECOMING A PRIVATE DENTIST IN THE UK
Private practice is embellished with greater expectations that are formidable for change and comparison. Not only will you be required to know about dentistry but will also have to have a basic grasp of business skills acquired and needed for any industry. This includes anything from the knowledge of standard business structuring and staffing to understanding modern marketing techniques that are to be used in tandem with your practice.
If you’re ready to stray away from the incapacitated arms of the NHS and delve into your own private practice, you’ll need to identify the disparity between forming a successful and independent dental practice and one that is still awaiting its jumpstart in the competitive dental market, ready to crash and burn. Here are some highlighting factors that make all the difference between success and failure:
Create a business plan
The first step in setting up a successful squat dental practice is to put everything you know and visualize about your practice on paper. It is imperative that you begin jotting down your goals, aspirations, and mission statements on paper and share them with your colleagues to help get everyone on the same page.
Research shows that you’re several times more likely to achieve a goal when you document it and share it with others. This way, not only are you making yourself more accountable for your leadership role but it will also have an inspirational effect on those around you. Come together with your partner or an expert advisor to clarify your vision and what you would like to achieve with said vision.
A business plan doesn’t need to be a complex document, but should simply include:
- Your main goal(s) as outlined above. Keep your goals simple, specific, measurable, and realistic. For instance, you may have a goal to expand your practice from one surgery to three by the year 2022.
- A comprehensive forecast of your finances for the first twelve months. This security not only makes you more credible as a leader but also gives you peace of mind.
- Secure and maintain an income for as long as possible. You may choose to keep a current associate position to help significantly cushion the outgoings until your practice has successfully established a name enough to operate full time.
- A marketing plan. This will include analysing your competitors, knowing your audience, and offering services that your patients would want. A good marketing strategy can help attract new prospect patients and in turn, grow your practice.
- A clear and unique value proposition that makes you different from all the other practices out there. For instance, disabled access, a focus on pediatric or geriartic patients, etc.
Understand your budget
Finances are critical during the first few months of starting your practice. The cost of starting a new dental practice can be significant, often upwards of £200,000 to £250,000. That’s a large sum of capital that you may not have access to, which is why you’ll need to look for credible external funding sources. You may lend financial help from brokers who are able to assess the financial exchange with recommendations on equipment suppliers for superior service.
Estimate as best as you can for the initial costs to get your office up and running. This includes the cost of equipment and materials and daily operating expenses. You might work better by seeking the services of an accountant who fully understands how a dental practice works and the financial packages that will be put in place to ease cash flow. Most importantly, you must anticipate some unexpected costs and have enough to cater to these overlooked cashflows.
Determine the right space requirements and location
Finding the right location for your dental practice can optimize your chances of success. Before you go space-hunting for your brand-new dental office, it is wise to research the area in advance to gain a better understanding of the local market. You want your location to be accessible, in close proximity to your target patients, and within the budget, you have set for your initial dental opening. You want to typically avoid areas that are already saturated with practitioners offering similar dental services.
Consider a local demographic that best suits your value proposition. Scouting for an area that has a low dental practitioner to general population ratio allows you to experience high client numbers once you’re ready to open the doors to the public. Once you’ve identified your potential location, you should analyze the makeup of the population. This includes the average age distribution, general attitude towards dental care, and whether the area is in the nucleus of a commuter zone.
Asking yourself questions that define your ideal target audience and the appropriate location for them can greatly impact your potential patient base and revenue stream. For instance, if you’re a family dentist, relocate your practice near a family-friendly neighbourhood. Considering space requirements can also help you determine the area for your practice. Do you require a large waiting or reception area? Is the parking close to the practice? These simple factors can help you envision and lay out the location of your dreams.
Hire an external expert team
Once you have your business plan and model in place, you’ll be progressing into the next step – involving experts to help with the business. Branding, design, and general finances are areas of your practice that are non-negotiable. This means that cutting corners can only come back to haunt you 9 out 10 times. It is always better to get expertise where required. An external expert team ensures that your brand is on point and reaching the right kind of customers.
You may also hire an accountant to help with managing the finances of the dental practice. There is a huge range of tax, superannuation and other financial factors that only apply to dental practitioners or those working in the health industry. So, working with someone who is well-versed in these laws and regulations can make a big difference to your finances in the long haul.
Securing financing and licensing
Financing and licensing follow soon after your dental business plan is complete. Securing the necessary permit and licenses to practice in your area is an essential step that helps recognize the legitimacy of your dental practice. The laws and regulations may vary from place to place so it is worthwhile for you to research and leave budget and time aside to obtain these mandatory permits and licenses before you open.
Don’t wait until the last minute to handle the legal aspects of opening your dental practice. It can take months on end to earn the credentials needed for your dental practice to operate legally. You may also register with the necessary offices and the national office to be able to retain a good business module. In order to deal with the legal structure needed for your practice, you may also hire a healthcare attorney to assist you.
Market your new practice
One of the most essential dental practice tools needed to launch your new dental practice and have it flourish among others is your marketing strategy. As a practice owner and business manager, you should set aside time to spend on marketing. This ties into your unique proposition, website, brand name and logo, vision, and your practice location, all of which factor in to help deliver new prospective patients into your clinic.
It is important for you to not lose sight of your goals when executing your marketing strategies and campaigns. On the flip side, if you’re too caught up in the day-to-day routine of running your practice, you may slow your chances of growth. Develop a paid and targeted social media campaign to reach residents across your specific neighbourhood. Sending leaflets or flyers, sponsoring local events, and providing discounts on referral schemes all help pull in attention to your practice, thereby increasing traffic and boosting revenue.
The gap between private dentistry and the NHS has been growing with immense effect over the last couple of years. If things go as they currently are, the divide will continue to increase exponentially. While setting up your own, bumbling dental practice from scratch may put you in a staggering position, it can also lead to a plethora of grand opportunities for your continually proliferating business. The biggest upside to dentistry in private practice is that it is entirely between you and your patient. This means that the NHS or any third party is not dwindling over your head with stipulations, quotas, and advice on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in your practice.
As a private dentist, you have greater control over the profitability of your work, the material resources you use, the treatments you offer, the associates you hire, and how the business is set to run in the long term, as long as you work within the stringent confines of professional conduct and perfectly meet Care Quality Commission (CQC) or similar requirements. In addition to professional freedom, you may also expect an annual turnover of an average of £500,000 in private dental practice.