The new black

The work of Blackhills specialist Dental Clinic has been recognised in a prestigious Parliamentary review. Here, the team outlines their ethos and how it works to the benefit of all

31 March, 2015 / indepth
 Blackhills team    Mike Wilkinson

For over a century dentists have tended to work in isolation, providing treatment for their patients with little or no peer review. Blackhills Specialist Dental Clinic is different. From the outset the intention was to create a setting where a number of specialist clinicians can work closely together to provide the highest standards of contemporary dental care, while continually peer reviewing each other’s work.

We have eight General Dental Council registered specialists covering all the main adult dental disciplines, together with a dedicated support team of nurses and clerical staff, working out of a purpose-built clinic just a few metres from the main A9 trunk road running through the heart of Scotland.

The clinic receives referrals from dentists who require additional specialist support for more complex cases, but also accepts patients who present directly for advanced treatment.

The ethos of the clinic is one of patient-centred excellence and professional co-operation, something that all staff are involved in

Paul Stone, Clinical Director

The ethos of the clinic is one of patient-centred excellence and professional co-operation, and this is something that all staff are involved in, bringing a shared culture of:

  • 100 per cent patient focus –the needs and wishes of the patient being paramount
  • a genuine interest in all our patients – the only way to determine their requirements fully
  • a willingness to acknowledge when a patient would be better seeing another colleague for treatment
  • a ‘no blame’ principle – because nobody comes to work to cause harm.

There is a genuine passion to deliver the best treatment for each patient, and this often requires the combined expertise of several specialists. We have meetings to discuss and plan the more complex cases, and all those involved then attend the patient’s appointment to bring their different perspectives and skills to help determine the correct diagnosis and relevant treatment plan. This is a really important aspect of our approach to patient care, requiring us to take time to identify and appreciate other possible background issues, and it is always valued by our patients. Many of our patients have only experienced ‘problem driven’ dentistry, so our ‘patient-based’ approach, putting the person rather than their teeth at the core of all considerations, is a revelation.

Some of the patients we see at Blackhills Clinic provide significant challenges, and therefore the availability of the most advanced diagnostic and treatment facilities is essential. We were one of the first dental clinics in the country to have its own computed tomography (CT) scanner to help establish accurate diagnoses. As well as the latest materials and instrumentation, we have also invested in full digital X-ray facilities, a clinical operating microscope and a surgical device that cuts bone using ultra-high frequency vibrations (resulting in greatly reduced discomfort and swelling).

The reputation of the clinic is now such that dental companies often approach us to carry out cutting-edge research and clinical trials. We were the first place in the world to use a brand new dental implant material in a human. This innovative alloy won the Frost & Sullivan Medical Device Technology of the Year Award, and is now widely regarded as the most sophisticated implant material available, having improved physical and biological properties compared with traditional options. Blackhills is also working with a Swiss company in researching a new bone-graft material that avoids additional more invasive surgery – the only centre in the UK currently involved.

We receive frequent requests to provide articles and comment for various professional publications, and most of our specialists also lecture in the UK and overseas. This gives us the opportunity to spread the message of how we work and interact, both within the clinic and with other dental professionals. We are often involved in ongoing clinical mentoring of dentists, nurses and therapists, and we run a variety of educational courses within the clinic.

Most of the specialists also hold part-time hospital consultant or senior academic posts, and so communication within the clinic and with the 640 dentists who send patients to us is vital. To facilitate communication, we use a combination of regular internal staff meetings, weekly email updates and clinic staff training away-days, as well as newsletters and numerous symposia and meetings for the dental practices. With such a diverse group, it is fair to say that effective communication remains our biggest challenge, but with increasing numbers of patients and a staff retention rate of virtually 100% we believe we are succeeding.

Blackhills Clinic would like to be seen as the ‘go-to’ centre for high-quality specialist dentistry. The clinic has received recognition at a national level (Scottish Dental Magazine’s Best Specialist Referral Practice 2013), and is now realising an international reputation, which reflects the skills and expertise of the specialist clinicians and supporting team. All clinicians are members of various national and international dental associations and societies, and many have also held senior positions in these organisations as well in universities and on Royal College committees.

We also work to support general dentists by:

accepting referrals for more challenging and difficult treatment
carrying out specific complex procedures so that the patient can return to his or her dentist for the more straightforward aspects of the treatment plan – we refer to this as ‘share the care with a specialist’
giving advice about problems and issues
co-ordinating educational events to raise the knowledge base for dentists and their nurses, providing continuing professional development for the regulatory body.
Despite all the technology and involvement we have with other dentists, we are fully aware that our most important assets are our staff and specialists. Their commitment to the provision of exceptional patient care underpins and reinforces the clinic philosophy. We always ensure that the working environment is conducive to this, and make every effort to provide suitable rest facilities and work-based educational support (including lifestyle and postural advice). There is also an incentive scheme linked to the clinic’s monthly financial targets, giving additional time off. We have found that involving all staff in the performance of the clinic increases the feeling of belonging, and encourages a more loyal and committed attitude in all areas and at all levels.

We feel that our holistic approach to the provision of specialist dental care not only gives our patients the chance to receive the highest standard of treatment delivered by the most appropriate clinician, but also that we provide a range of options tailored to their individual requirements. It is hoped that the considerable success of our particular Blackhills business model will serve as an indicator to others of how effective the combination of the right people working together in the right environment with the right attitude to patient care can be.

More info

Blackhills Specialist Dental Clinic led by clinical director Paul Stone, is located in Aberuthven, near Perth. See more at: Contact the team on 01764 664 446.

Tags: Blackhills clinic / Parliamentary review / Patient-centred / Professional / team work

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