Entrepreneurial husband and wife team expand their collection of dental practices from two to three with new kilwinning base
When their new practice opened in Kilwinning at the end of July this year, it marked the latest expansion in operations for husband and wife team Simon and Sharon Morrow.
The practice has its origins in Saltcoats in Ayrshire, where Simon took over when he completed his VT year after graduating from the University of Glasgow in 1996.
After meeting Sharon, the couple designed and built a completely new practice in Stevenston, which opened in 2010, and then five years later expanded further, converting a shop unit in Kilwinning.
For operations director Sharon, the decision to grow the practice was a natural one.
“Both Simon and I are quite entrepreneurial, we’re quite like minded in that way, and for us it was about recognising that there was a need in this area for high quality NHS dental care,” says Sharon.
“At first we weren’t sure about going for it, because Kilwinning is quite near to our other two sites in Saltcoats and Stevenston, but we recognised that if we didn’t do it, somebody else would. I feel a big pull towards my staff, and if somebody else had opened in Kilwinning, we could have lost patients there.
“The new practice has also allowed us to meet demand for ground floor premises, which has been a big issue in Kilwinning, and the feedback from patients has been really positive. Previously, it was a struggle for patients with mobility issues, even for parents with their prams, but not any more.”
As well as architects Stewart Associates, Sharon involved the existing staff from the Three Towns Dental Care in the planning period and decision making when it came to choosing equipment such as the Belmont chairs as well as the practice furnishings and other items sourced through Wrights. This, she feels, emphasises the teamwork that now takes place across the three different sites.
“Most of our staff work between the sites, so even though we have different premises, it’s very much a full team effort,” says Sharon. “I tried to include everyone in the planning for Kilwinning and involve them as much as possible with what was going on. That’s been a big part of it.”
Having the experience of already running two practices also informed decisions relating to equipment and what innovations it might be possible to introduce. One area Sharon was determined to make a difference was in running as close to a paperless practice environment as possible, and Kilwinning gave her the opportunity to try to reach that goal.
“Going paperless was one obvious step, it leads to less administration and less scanning, so we opted for the Carestream Clinical+ practice management software, along with the e Forms electronic signature pad,” says Sharon. “That has been a slight change to how we work elsewhere, but all the staff now know how to operate it and they enjoy using it.
“So we’re using that experience with the aim of passing it on to the other sites. It’s all about doing things in small steps, and gives us a chance to try something out first before introducing it elsewhere.”
With two surgeries, the Kilwinning practice offers additional NHS services, with sedation, orthodontics and oral surgery. Three Towns Dental Care is also involved in a number of different pilots, including the Keep Well health programme that is aimed at increasing the general standard of health in 30 to 64 year olds in the local community.
The programme focuses particularly on early intervention for people at high risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes to help them modify their lifestyle.
“The additional services often reduce the need for our patients to travel to other NHS service providers such as the PDS or Crosshouse hospital,” says Sharon. “We try to do what we can to make things easier for patients.”
Sharon originally studied general nursing and then went on to do a degree in health and social care, with a focus on health promotion, particularly among children. That background in general health – combined with a qualification as a dental nurse in 2010 – gives her a wide range of experience that she brings to the three practices.
“We don’t only look at the mouth, we look at the patient and take a holistic approach to what we do,” she says. “That is demonstrated by us being involved in other projects in the practice around a pilot for early intervention for children and young people. We also are looking at expanding our Childsmile service to provide better access for children with additional needs. Both Simon and I firmly believe you need to look at the bigger picture, and we have a duty in our roles to improve public health. We certainly share the same ethos in that respect.”
The husband and wife team also work well together – although Sharon says they often don’t even see each other until they’re both at home in the evening.
As well as his clinical work, Simon is involved in supporting newly qualified dental graduates and is also a dental practice and sedation inspector for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, and a sedation practice inspector for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire.
He is past chair and current member of NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s Area Professional Dental Committee and a member of the National Dental Advisory Committee, as well as sitting on several other committees.
“With so many interests outwith the practice, it’s important he can fulfil those duties as well as his clinical commitments,” says Sharon. “But even if he’s in surgery, we don’t see a lot of each other during the day – and we do try to escape the subject of dentistry in the evenings!”
With three practices now up and running, involving a total of 35 staff, and three children aged between 10 and 15 at home, Sharon and Simon certainly have their hands full – but for a perfectionist such as Sharon, there is always more to do.
“When we finished building and then opened the practice at Stevenston four years ago, and it was doing very well, somebody asked me what our next project would be,” she says. “I said at the time that there was no way we were going to be opening anymore, and a few years down the line here we are!
“But at this point I don’t see any further expansion taking place. It’s more about maintaining a good reputation and a high quality service for our patients. It’s important to me to continually monitor how we’re doing and continually investing, whether it’s in the building or in staff training or technology. In this day and age and in the current market, you can never sit back and say, well that’s it, we’ve done our job.”
Three Towns and Kilwinning Dental Care are now operating in Saltcoats, Stevenston and Kilwinning.
To find out more, visit www.threetownsdentalcare.co.uk