Neil Lloyd, Chief Executive of Dental Partners explains why choosing to work in corporate dentistry can kick-start the career of a young dentist, and why not all corporates are made the same.
A nationwide 2017 BDA survey of General Dental Practitioners makes depressing reading for any newly-qualified dentist, highlighting that young dentists have seen their real income fall as student debt levels have topped a staggering £70,000. As a result, many young dentists are looking for new ways to help them meet the challenges that lie ahead.
I quote this survey not so we can all hold our heads in our hands, but to highlight that the profession itself is at a crossroads. The opportunities presented by new technology, and improved materials are helping dentists create ever more lifelike restorations and improve oral health, helping to meet the needs and wants of an increasingly demanding patient base. But simultaneously, increasing regulation and the challenges of running a successful and efficient small business are bringing their own trials and tribulations. Therefore, it is incumbent on all those with an interest in dentistry to start to do tangible things that can promote its positive aspects and make the lives of those working within the profession as fulfilling as possible as possible.
Have you considered corporate dentistry?
Corporate dentistry is one sector that often comes in for criticism. Yes, it is true that the rising corporatisation within the market and the expansive growth of the so-called ‘mini-corporates’, is changing the dynamic within practices and altering the way in which dentistry is delivered. But these headlines only tell half the story and we are far announcing the death of the ‘high street’ practice.
Corporate dentistry has been through several evolutions since Boots first entered the market twenty years ago. Supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s have also dipped their toes in the waters, but none has made any impact worth noting. The reason for this in my mind is down to trust, or the lack of it. The invasive nature of dentistry means the relationship between dentist and patient is very particular and once trust is built it is hard to destroy. So it might be that the failure of these organisations to gain any significant traction in the market is down to their inability to make their offering personal enough to meet patients’ expectations. The corporate sector in dentistry needs a ‘makeover’ and I am pleased to say there are now big changes on the horizon that are delivering a new and refreshingly different outlook to this sector, bringing beneficial career opportunities for those who care to take a closer look.
So how can we create a new dental marketplace in which the challenges of running a business and the headaches caused by the issues stated above are not mutually exclusive from clinical independence and career progression that is so desirable by today’s young dentists.
This state of affairs should be considered an achievable aim for those leaving university or finishing their Foundation Year and in my view corporate dentistry is in the prime position to deliver on all fronts.
Commercially, corporates have been successful precisely because they take away the administrative headaches that are part and parcel of running a dental practice (or indeed any small business). They have centralised services which mean they benefit from economies of scale that are beyond the reach of a single high street practice, but many argue that they achieve these things at the expense of the clinical independence that dentists as healthcare professionals hold so dear. Anecdotal stories of material and equipment downgrades have added to the professional perception that in dentistry, ‘corporate’ is a dirty word.
‘New kids on the block’ redefining corporate dentistry
As CEO of the newest dental corporate I have been in the enviable position of being able to look at the market from afar and we are now putting in place an organisation that is learning from the mistakes of those that have gone before, with a mission to change the face of corporate dentistry.
Dental Partners is the ‘new kid on the block’, and our aim is to do things very differently in relation to both patients and dental professionals. It helps that we have had the opportunity to learn from others and I believe we can really start to improve the perception of this section of the market. Far from being a faceless corporate giant, Dental Partners aims to recruit the brightest dental talent, nurturing a progressive clinical environment that ensures all our practices deliver the very best and most appropriate dental care to our patients.
Our ethos is simple – to put dentistry first. We are creating a group of practices in which dental practitioners retain complete clinical freedom, so patients continue to receive the same professional care they always have. Crucially, it’s also about staff engagement and empowerment because we want our practices to be ‘the very best place to work’ for our clinical and non-clinical teams. It’s my belief that once we have this combination, we are guaranteed to deliver the best patient choice and the best patient care.
The dental team is the heartbeat of any practice and when we acquire a practice we always hope to maintain the team and culture that has already made the practice successful. Good dentistry can only thrive in the right environment and that is why we put a strong emphasis on clinical freedom and personal development through internal and external learning opportunities to help meet CPD requirements and to push the boundaries of what dentistry has to offer.
A brighter future starts here
Dentistry is an exciting progression and one on the cusp of a digital revolution. At Dental Partners we want to encourage dental professionals to make the most of their skills and work in a collaborative, fulfilling environment that takes their career progression seriously. To this end we are seeking to recruit the best dental talent, especially young and aspiring dentists at the start of their dental journey and we want to convince them that we are the very antithesis of what constitutes the traditional view of a corporate organisation.
We completely trust the judgement of our dentists and are committed to their clinical freedom – we simply provide the supportive framework needed to practice ethically and safely. Of course actions speak lounder than words, but in the thirty or so practices that are already part of the Dental Partners’ network, I am confident that we are proving how serious we are about providing an ‘alternative’ model for corporate dentistry.