The perfect spot for a practice

10 August, 2011 / Infocus

At first glance, 24 St John’s Road in Corstorphine looks like any number of attractive period townhouses.

Apart from the discrete signage signalling it is home to Edinburgh’s newest, specialist referral practice, Vermilion, you wouldn’t guess at the style and layout of what lies within.

Ten years ago, the interior of the building was completely restructured and replaced with open-plan office-style accommodation. However, it is this blank canvas that has provided David Offord and his team with a quite spectacular new workspace.

The two specialists – David is an oral surgeon and Grant Mathieson, a prosthodontist – had worked together for a number of years and were keen to collaborate as a clinical partnership on their own.

Location is always a key consideration for a new practice and David stressed to his surveyor, Neil McConnachie of Eric Young & Co, that the building needed to be on the west of the city, easily accessible, by road and public transport and with readily available parking. It was felt that since many of the patients would be undergoing significant oral surgery, often under sedation, they would need somewhere that was able to offer parking for whoever was driving them to and from the appointment.

The next consideration was whether to go for a new-build or a period townhouse that required extensive renovation in order to accommodate a dental practice. In the end, Neil identified a building that provided the best of both worlds: a period façade with an interior that was already divided into spacious office accommodation, onto which David’s vision of a cutting-edge, modern referral clinic could be born.

David explained that, after working in referral practices, hospitals and general practices in the UK and abroad, he had developed a clear idea of what he wanted the new practice to look and feel like. Using his experience he took his vision to Farahbod and Homan at NV Design and Construction, after seeing their previous work highlighted in the pages of Scottish Dental magazine.

Farahbod took David to one of their previous projects, Glasgow Southside Othodontics in Thornliebank and to Eilertsen Dental Care in Inverness, to give him a first-hand view of what can be achieved and, crucially, a chance to speak to the clients on what it is like working with NVDC. David was suitably impressed and set about explaining what he wanted to achieve to Farahbod.

The property at 24 St John’s Road was already sub-divided into office accommodation and – with the help and advice of Neil McConnachie – David secured the first floor of the building. The space afforded him use of the bay window on the first floor, which was identified as the perfect place for the waiting area. Derek Bond, CA from Bond Accountancy, also worked closely with David to formulate the business plan and pitch it to the banks.

As it was effectively a shell, David and Farahbod spent a number of weeks laying roll after roll of masking tape on the floor of the space, indicating where walls, reception desks, surgeries etc might be situated. Once they had refined their plans, they set about working on the design specifics of the interior, with Farahbod putting his creative abilities to work.

David had a very clear plan and was determined to stick to his vision, rather than make constant revisions once work was under way. This enabled NVDC to get in and get the job done on budget and finish 10 days ahead of schedule. Farahbod oversaw the management of the project and brought in his team of specialist contractors, including Ian Wilson of IW Technology Services who provided all the IT and multi-media solutions, while Clark Dental supplied the dental equipment and cabinetry. Implant equipment was supplied by Southern Implants, compressors from Cattani and Vision Dental Laboratory provides lab support.

The finished practice is a study of design brilliance and inventive construction with a common-sense attitude to the everyday workings of a busy referral clinic. The waiting area, with its calming view of the Pentland Hills from the bespoke ‘Vermilion sofa’, is situated at the front of the building as far as possible away from the clinical spaces and, importantly, the staff areas. David was keen to separate these two spaces to minimise disruption and to allow staff to relax in their own area without fear of being overheard or disrupting patients.

Moving past reception and into the clinical areas, the mood changes, from the warm and comforting tones of the waiting area to the bright, surgical feel of the surgeries themselves. The walls leading into the clinical area are curved, allowing light to spill through, meaning there are no harsh shadows or edges to spoil the design aesthetic.

The practice has five surgeries, with NVDC managing to incorporate the curved wall theme throughout, which provides a stylish finishing touch to each room.

The first surgery is ‘The Smile Studio’ where dental hygienist Colette Ballantyne operates. Colette is available to take hygiene referrals from GDPs who don’t have access to a hygienist in-house. As well as David and Grant’s surgeries, kitted out to their own specifications, the practice includes a dental laboratory, digital OPG room, LDU and a staff room that doubles up as a seminar room.

The staff accommodation includes male and female changing rooms, complete with showers and lockers for personal effects, meaning staff don’t have to change in toilets or communal areas. Staff also have a separate entrance, so they don’t have to walk past patients in their civvies before they have changed into their surgical scrubs – all highlighting the attention to professionalism that David earmarked as a priority.

This attention to detail was also applied to the service they provide to patients, which inspired the training they provided to their staff before they opened their doors in mid-June. David’s wife Emma, who is in charge of the clinic’s PR and marketing, has a background in five-star hotels and arranged for the staff to be trained in five-star service as well as exposed to a five-star environment.

In addition to a tailor-made service delivery workshop carried out at the clinic by a Hospitality Consultant, the team was also treated to a tour and customised training at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa in Edinburgh. The practice manager, Valerie, spent time with the front of house staff to pick up ideas to take back to the clinic, while the hygiene and nursing team received a customer journey induction at the award-winning One Spa at the Sheraton, which provided the inspiration for their own customer introduction.

When a patient attends the clinic for the first time, they are offered a full tour of the facilities, including areas such as the LDU if they wish, in order to give them a full picture of the care that has gone into providing their dentistry. They will then sit down with David and Grant to ascertain what their expectations are and whether they are realistic, both in a clinical and financial sense.

Using Kodak’s R4 Communicator, the specialists can show patients detailed animations of procedures, which they can also be emailed to explain to relatives and also to get a second look in the comfort of their own home. David and Grant are committed to full transparency of treatment and, importantly, finance. Patients and referring dentists are fully informed of what a treatment plan will involve, what is to be paid and when. They promise no additional extras with the only item on their price list with a “Prices from…” line being their tooth whitening treatments, and this is only because there are three options.

David explained that transparency and openness at this stage will mean a better patient journey and a more constructive relationship with their referring colleagues.

David and Grant both acknowledge that the relationship with refe
rring dentists is crucial to their success and, to this end they are working with Ankylos to provide a refer and restore programme for single tooth implants. This will involve David placing the implant and then handing the patient back to the GDP for them to take the impression and fit the crown.

This programme has been highly successful down south, as it makes referring practitioners implant-aware, as well as generating extra income for dentists.

Working closely with referring colleagues in genuine clinical collaboration, David, Grant and the team at Vermilion aim to build long and fruitful relationships with their dental colleagues.


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