Taking back control

The pandemic and uncertainty about future funding of NHS dentistry is making payment plans more attractive

21 June, 2021 / indepth
 Isabel Johnston  

For Greenlaw Dental Care, last year’s first COVID-19 lockdown was an accelerator to change tack after six decades as an NHS practice. Richard Alexander, Eilidh Craig and their team recently joined Denplan to “take back control” of their business, with both staff and patients embracing the transition and benefits of using a payment plan.

“Coming out of the first lockdown last year, we really asked ourselves what we wanted as a practice team and Denplan was a natural part of that,” said Richard.

Their NHS practice has been in the family for more than 60 years, with he and his wife taking over 12 years ago, when Eilidh’s father retired. With a generational shift, Richard, Eilidh and their three associates knew they wanted to push the practice forward and do new and different things.

To be in a position where we can affect changes instead of being dictated to by someone else, has been so important

“Dentistry as a profession has been hammered by COVID and for us it was probably the most stressful time we will ever go through. There were so many things that were highlighted by the lockdown. When things run well and it is profitable you go about your daily routine, but the pandemic has really made us reassess what we wanted for our practice and our patients.

“We thought about the level of and access to care we wanted to provide and the preventive treatment we wanted to make available to our patients. Suddenly, joining Denplan was something that was quite an easy decision to make. For us to now be with Denplan and be in control and in a position where we can affect those changes instead of being dictated to by someone else, has been so important for us,” said Richard.

The family-run dental practice in Paisley offers routine dental care, as well as specialist treatment including implants, IV sedation, adult braces, facial aesthetic and dental cosmetic treatments. Greenlaw joined Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, in October 2020 after initial conversations with their Business Development Consultant, Heather MacMillan.

It was vital for Richard and Eilidh to make their long-standing practice team part of the journey and they maximised all aspects of Denplan’s support when joining the payment plan provider.

“Denplan’s support has been invaluable. Their investment in our practice to ‘learn the ropes’ as we transitioned has been essential to me and the whole team. When change has to happen, it is so vital to have all our staff on board. Joining Denplan includes training, support and access to their vast resources, which has made the transition much more straightforward for all of us,” he said.

“To be able to do our training virtually when some companies have not even set that provision up yet, is so important. All the training we have done has been great and it has really brought us together and made us feel part of the wider Denplan community. Also knowing there is a consultant to go to, customer service teams at the head office and an online portal with resources has been so reassuring for us in a period of transition. Honestly, it has been such an easy change, we keep thinking why we haven’t done it before.”

More than 100 patients signed up to Denplan in the first three months, with numbers growing every day. “We have had such positive feedback. Patients have understood there has been a change in service and system. Now being on Denplan they have enjoyed the extra time they have with us and the treatment a payment plan allows them,” said Richard.

“Some patients have been coming to us for decades. They know us and trust our clinical judgement. By being open and honest, and explaining why Denplan is so important for them as patients and our practice has really been understood. Some patients had been asking for payment plans and now have been given the option and they really appreciate that.”

Business Development Consultant Heather, who supports practices all over Scotland, has also been delighted with the practice’s growth in such a short period of time. “I am so impressed with all that Greenlaw Dental Care has achieved,” she said. “The whole team has been on board, and it has been great supporting a practice which has come out of the pandemic with a positive attitude and mindset to take back control of their business.”

Greenlaw Dental Care’s staff have particularly enjoyed all the training Denplan’s Training Academy has given them in recent months. They are already part of a growth programme and will have members of the team trained as Denplan Champions in the coming months. The practice has also joined Denplan’s latest membership scheme, Denplan Plus, which gives them access to even more benefits including compliance expertise, reduced admin fees and the removal of patient joining fees.

“For us as a practice it is all about pushing on to the next level, so Denplan Plus felt like a natural next step,” said Richard. “The extra staff training and the ability to access more information about compliance and up-to-date training is so important. Not having the patient joining fee probably made one of the biggest differences in allowing patients to access Denplan. We found it made it much easier to offer Denplan to patients and we noticed it gave us the ability to ramp up the growth even more.”

While the practice is still catching up on where they were before the pandemic, Richard explained how they are already enjoying the change of pace since joining Denplan. “The ability to have that longer length of appointment to discuss clinical care with patients is great. Time is such a commodity which you just don’t have enough of, so it is so important to be able to get that. As a clinician, to be able to have an open discussion with patients about what their clinical options are that is not regulated by any NHS restrictions has been quite liberating.

“As a business owner, one of the most important things you can do is to be able to have a plan for where you want to go. The pandemic took that away but joining Denplan has given this back to us. Our stress levels are down, our levels of anxiety are down, and it has also allowed us as a team to have something positive to focus on. We can look forward instead of worrying about how the practice may or may not survive,” he said.

And his final words of advice to others in the profession? “If there is uncertainty and you are not happy where your own practice and patient care is going, then be proactive. Take back control. Don’t just sit there and wait and hope for the best. For us, Denplan provided us with that option.”

Tags: Denplan / Greenlaw Dental

Categories: Feature / Magazine

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