The ‘big boys’ are moving in on dentistry and what are YOU going to do about it? Sorry if that sounds a little bleak and confrontational but I’m afraid that is the way that UK dentistry seems to be heading these days.

IDH are manoeuvering to be the NHS provider of choice when the new con-trick comes around. The Department of Health doesn’t like dealing with lots of small owner-managed businesses – too time consuming and they don’t speak ‘management’ or ‘corporate bulls**t’! They can’t deliver the economies of scale that the big boys can. (Normally by cutting corners and screwing staff and patients alike. The gap between the expected level of service and what they contractually have to deliver is what they call profit.) Expect then that the NHS will be provided for with larger practices and IDH. The days of the one or two surgery practice providing NHS care are numbered.

What of the private market? Surely corporate dentistry was tried here before and it was shown that it didn’t work? Well, yes and no. It is true that Boots and others entered the market in an ill prepared fashion and thought it was just like the optical market. They had a high turnover of staff and their numbers didn’t stack up. Some have taken this to mean that corporate dentistry cannot work in any fashion in the UK market. I think they are wrong. Sainsbury’s have now entered the market in partnership with ‘Centre for Dentistry’ and aim to have 12 new practices opened within stores by the end of 2013. The business model seems to be that when the dentist buys in, there are then 3 partners in the relationship. There are Instore Dental practices in Tesco locations and others are making noises about joining the throng.

Why should you be worried?

You may not need to be. But you will need to start asking yourself some searching questions and answering honestly.

  • Are my team as well trained as they could/should be?
  • Do my team convert enquiries into patients?
  • Do my patients look forward to coming to the practice?
  • Do customers trust the Sainsbury’s brand more than mine?
  • Do you have a clear and distinct offering?
  • Whatever I charge, can I justify it and are my patients happy with the charges?
  • Is my practice decorated to a high standard?
  • Do I communicate regularly with my patients?
  • Do I have a strong online presence?
  • Do I market for new patients effectively?

Because you can be sure that Sainsbury’s et al will be asking themselves all of these questions and committing serious resources to deliver on it. This is not to say that there is no place in future for the independent, private practice because there will be. However, there is no place in future for the independent, badly run private practice – Sainsbury’s and the like will finish them off pretty quickly.