Introducing {my}options

A recent survey by the British Dental Association showed that 75% of NHS practice owners in England are struggling to fill vacancies while up to 67% of NHS dentists said they were looking to scale back how much work they did over the next 5 years.

But why are so many dentists leaving the NHS in England and what does this mean for access to dentistry for patients across the country?

Tom Riall, CEO of {my}dentist, was interviewed by The Dentist magazine about why he thinks the new approach to affordable private dentistry – {my}options – could be the solution for both patients and dentists.

What is {my}options and why is it needed?

“Right now, not enough people have access to the affordable dental care they need. Half of all NHS practices across the country are closed to new patients, a growing number of clinicians are looking to move away from providing NHS dentistry altogether, and a large number of people simply do not think they can afford to go private.

There has never been a bigger gap between access to NHS care on the one side, and high-cost private treatments on the other.

{my}options is our solution: it is a new approach to private dentistry that will help more patients than ever before get access to the affordable dental care they need, whilst at the same time, helping clinicians to find a better balance between their NHS and private work, grow their dental careers, and be paid fairly and transparently for the work they do.”

Why are so many clinicians looking to move away from providing NHS care?

“Being a dentist can be a difficult job. Especially in England and Wales, many dentists find the current NHS contract stressful, unfair and frustrating.

Most dentists I talk to aren’t looking to leave the NHS – they genuinely care about helping all patients get the treatment they need. But they also want to grow their careers and be rewarded fairly for their hard work – it’s my job to make this happen.

{my}options was designed around our clinicians and patients. It is affordable, transparent, and based on a fee-per-item model, and from the early results we have seen, it is already proving hugely popular.”

What’s happened so far with {my}options?

“We’ve been working with our clinicians over the last few months to find the best way of delivering this new approach. That’s why we have launched pilots in 20 of our practices around the UK, and the feedback so far has been overwhelming.

Clinicians appreciate how straight-forward it is and the fairer remuneration model, while patients have really responded to the fixed, transparent pricing and flexible appointments.

Around 10 new patients per week are moving to {my}options in every practice where it has launched and over 2,000 patients have benefited so far. Many of these patients are new to {my}dentist and a surprisingly large number have struggled to access dentistry at all before.

Eventually, {my}options will be available to all patients in every part of the country. All treatments will be included and, over time, this will also include private orthodontics, like clear aligners, which we know there is huge demand for. We’re also looking at a financing option to ensure it is affordable to everyone.”

Does this mean you’re not offering NHS care anymore?

“There will always be a place for NHS care at {my}dentist. We currently support more than 4 million NHS patients every year, and more exempt patients than any other provider.

But right now, many people simply cannot get access to the dental care they need: either because they cannot afford it, or because there is no NHS provision near them. It is crucial that patients get access to the right care for them at a price they can afford and that dentists are supported in their roles: {my}options offers this.”

What has been the reaction from clinicians?

“For many of our dentists, this is exactly what they have been waiting for: it is a spring-board into a private career with all the marketing and clinical support needed to feel comfortable and a fairer remuneration model. The fixed, transparent pricing along with a financing option, means many dentists are much happier talking to patients about the treatments that are available.

We’ve actually had a number of dentists who were considering moving to a new practice to grow their private work, but who are now staying because of how much of an opportunity they see with {my}options.”

Have patients also been enthusiastic?

“The reaction from patients has been overwhelming. In just a few weeks, more than 2,000 patients have benefited, many of whom haven’t had access to a dentist in quite a while. They really appreciate the transparency, the access to financing, and the flexibility of the appointments.

It won’t be the solution for everyone, but this is a step in the right direction in improving access for a greater number of people.”

Just how affordable is {my}options?

“On average, prices for {my}options treatments are about 33% lower than for normal private dentistry. What our patients have particularly responded to however is how transparent and straight-forward the prices are. Patients pay a fixed price for their treatments and we are exploring financing options, which are not available on the NHS, to ensure the treatments are as affordable as possible.

Where patients are having multiple treatments, for example several fillings, the costs will be more than on the NHS, but this is clearly explained so patients understand what they are paying for. Many of our patients are happy to pay a little extra than on the NHS to have more flexible appointments, for example in the evening or at the weekend, and to have access to treatments that aren’t available on the NHS, such as white fillings.”

How are you able to offer private treatments so affordably?

“Being the largest provider of dentistry anywhere in Europe gives us real buying power. It also means we have very close relationships with our suppliers, and we can work with them to bring down the costs of materials and pass these savings on to our patients.”

What support do clinicians get who are offering this?

“Clinicians get all the support they need to feel comfortable offering {my}options – whether that is marketing support, advice on setting up a social media channel, more time with their local clinical support team, or a chance to talk to other clinicians who have been offering {my}options for longer.”

How significant do you think this opportunity is?

“Our research suggests that as many as 47% of patients would like to be able to access a service like {my}options. It’s still very early days, but the pilot practices have been a real success and I think there is an opportunity to transform part of how dentistry is delivered. For the first time on this scale, patients will be able to get the affordable treatment they need, and dentists will have another way to build the dental careers they want.”

What are your ambitions for {my}dentist? 

“Corporates haven’t always had a great reputation, and a lot of the time, they haven’t deserved one. I want to change that and make {my}dentist a really great place to practise dentistry.

We’ve been listening to our dentists and acting on those issues we know are frustrating: we’ve improved pay and development for nurses so clinicians have a great support team to work with; we’ve developed a new clinically-led approach to materials; and we’re investing record amounts in our equipment and practices.

But being a great place to work is not enough. Dentists don’t just want to be happy in their practices, important though that is – they also want to get on and progress in their roles. That’s why we’re investing in our in-house training Academy, which last year delivered more than 70,000 hours of CPD. And it’s why we’re putting so much focus on growing our new approach to affordable private dentistry.  

I want {my}dentist to be the best place in the country to grow a dental career. {my}options is helping us to achieve that. It is a game-changer for our patients and our clinicians alike and I think it has the potential to change how dentistry is delivered in this country.”

Should clinicians be optimistic about the future of dentistry in the UK?

“I think if you’d asked many clinicians that question a little while ago, they would have said no. But I really think that’s changing. I’m seeing dentists every week who are hugely optimistic about dentistry in this country.

Yes, there are challenges, particularly in the NHS, and we have to deal with stress and burnout, but opportunities such as {my}options can help dentists find the career that is right for them in the long-term, whilst also helping more patients than ever before get access to the care they need. There’s a lot to be optimistic about.”

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