How to make a successful conversion from NHS to private

In a recent discussion organised by NHS to Private conversion specialists Practice Plan, Creative Director, Les Jones, chatted to Ian Mills, a dentist based in an eight-surgery mixed NHS private practice in North Devon and Practice Plan Area Manager, Suki Singh, who shared their advice about converting from NHS to Private Practice

Les Jones: You’ve helped a lot of dentists make the move from NHS to private over the last 15 years, Suki. What makes an NHS dentist look to make that move and how are they going?

Suki Singh: The reasons have changed over the years. However, recently there have been instances where we’ve had conversations with practice owners who’ve said, “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but I need to do it now. Otherwise, I’m going to have to close the doors because I can’t deliver this NHS contract. I can’t keep the team; I can’t keep staff motivated.”

And, in the current climate, practices are getting a tremendous uptake of plan membership. Because the truth of the matter is patients have nowhere else to go.

Also, patient loyalty comes into it too. Patients want to have that continuous level of care with the practice of their choice and the dentist of their choice. And I think there’s been a mindset change with patients. They’ve accepted that NHS dentistry is possibly not something they’re going to be able to continue to have. And that’s really showing in patient uptake of practices converting.

Practice Plan Area Manager, Suki Singh

LJ: You converted a while ago, Ian. How was it for you? Were there particular anxieties about making the move? Have there been many changes?

Ian Mills: Absolutely. And I think there still would be if I was doing it now. But probably less anxiety because you only need to look at your colleagues who have made a success of private conversion. The landscape has changed massively, both in terms of the profession’s tolerance of working within the current NHS contract, but also patients’ expectations. Practice owners will be only too aware of the challenges of recruitment and retention. Young dental graduates coming out now, by and large, don’t see a long-term future within the NHS. And that can be a huge challenge in terms of recruiting and retaining associates.

So, as a practice owner, if I want to recruit someone I’ve got to deliver against their ambitions or their aspirations. And that is generally to support them in upskilling and developing their experience, their knowledge, perhaps their qualifications, and help them deliver the dentistry that they want to. And that can be challenging within the NHS.

Patients’ expectations have changed. Thanks to the BDA and the coverage we’ve seen over the last couple of years, patients understand the huge problems there are in accessing NHS care. And many are resigned to the fact they will have to pay for private dentistry. So, some of them understand, and they appreciate and value it.

My slight concern is for those that are left behind, and my frustration within the NHS is that we aren’t providing a safety net for those that can’t afford private dentistry. But the landscape has changed beyond all recognition. But I still think there is a degree of anxiety when you make that leap. And I guess that’s why working with organisations such as Practice Plan is key.

Ian Mills

Ian Mills

LJ: Good point, Ian. Although Practice Plan will support during the process, it’s important to say that the practice owner remains in control all the way through in terms of the timing or the pace at which the actual conversion happens. Don’t they, Suki?

SS: Absolutely. At Practice Plan the speed at which things move is determined by the Principal Dentist or the decision makers. However, even if you’re just thinking about moving away from the NHS, it’s best to have the conversation now. Because there is a lot of planning to do before we press the button and send those letters out. So, we can take that time to make sure everything is in place for it to be successful.

LJ: Do you have any words of advice for someone considering making this move, Ian?

IM: You need to take a positive approach to things. There may be lots of negative reasons why you want to leave the NHS, but this has to be a positive step. You have to try and align the positive drivers for your staff and your patients and accentuate that. Because yes, it will hopefully be good for the practice and its finances, but I’m not sure it would be that convincing for your staff or your patients unless they see some benefit from it. So, it comes down to communication, relationships and taking people with you on that journey.

And when you’re making a challenging decision like this, you need support around you. That support might come from your peers or your colleagues. It’ll certainly come from an organisation such as Practice Plan. Dentistry can be incredibly stressful; you can feel very isolated at times. But that needn’t be the case. You must take confidence from the number of colleagues that have trodden this path already. There are many fantastic organisations such as the College of General Dentistry, who can offer you that network of friends and colleagues that’ll support you through developing skills. But also, if you’re concerned, worried or anxious, there are people around that have done this before and they’ll be very quick to reach out and help.

LJ: Thank you, both.

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and are looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process whilst moving at a pace that’s right for you, why not start the conversation with Practice Plan. If you’d like to chat to someone in person, we’ll be at Stand D30 at Dentistry Show London on 6th and 7th October. Otherwise, call us on 01691 684165, or book your one-to-one NHS to private call today:

For more information visit the Practice Plan website:

Practice Plan comments on NHS Dentistry Inquiry

As the parliamentary inquiry into NHS dentistry continues, Nigel Jones, Sales & Marketing Director at Practice Plan, part of the Wesleyan Group, has commented on the challenges presented by recruitment and retention.

“We need a serious discussion about workforce planning and the challenges presented by the competition for associate dentists and dental nurses. The cost of recruiting and retaining staff is heaping ever more pressure on practices at a time when they are already experiencing elevated running costs, including energy bills. Many practices delivering NHS care are hanging on by a thread. If they lose an associate, it is nigh on impossible to replace them and there’s the danger they will miss their activity targets and face financial penalties.

“A key question will be how, in the face of competition from private practices, we can make NHS dentistry sufficiently attractive to appeal to homegrown dentists, as well as those who could come from abroad to help maintain service levels. With no increase in funding and a contract that is universally acknowledged as not fit for purpose, that looks like an impossible task at the moment. And though there is certainly a strong argument to make more of hygienists’ and therapists’ skills, it’s not at all clear where they will come from and how quickly they can be trained. It could take years for there to be a material difference in the numbers of overseas dentists, hygienists and therapists, which is time that we just don’t have.

“I hope the inquiry can provide a clear vision for the future of NHS dentistry, which would provide hope and encouragement to those dentists who want to help reduce oral health inequality in our society.”

More than one in ten dentists are unsure how much retirement income they need

In support of the national Pension Attention campaign, Wesleyan Financial Services has released retirement research findings specifically for dentists across the UK.

The Pension Attention campaign marks an unprecedented cross-industry pension campaign, created in part after it was revealed by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association that only 20% of the British population are confident they are saving enough for retirement. The campaign aims to help people understand their pensions and protect their money for the future.

In terms of dental professionals, Wesleyan’s research indicated that saving enough for retirement is the key financial priority for 40% of dentists over the next twelve months, but more than one in ten are unsure how much they will need when the time comes to hang up the loupes for good.

While the Retirement Living Standards provide some indication, suggesting that a single person would need a minimum of £33,600 per annum to maintain a ‘comfortable’ lifestyle with some luxuries, with dentists typically being higher earners their financial requirements may be significantly different.

Iain Stevenson, Head of Dental at Wesleyan Financial Services, said, “These findings won’t be surprising to a financial adviser who’s worth their salt when it comes to the complexities of a career in dentistry.

“With many dentists having some form of NHS pension, multiple income streams and being self-employed, it’s understandable that there are many elements that make it difficult for dentists to pinpoint exactly how much they are likely to receive in retirement. However, clarity in this area helps dentists make informed choices, put plans in place to retire when they want to and supports tax efficiency while saving. Seeking specialist advice may support dentists that are in a position of uncertainty.”

The research also revealed that in the next two years, a quarter of dentists are prioritising reducing their working hours and a fifth are looking to reduce their NHS commitments. Concerningly, of those looking to make changes, only 40% are sure how these changes would impact their pensions, which will be significant without replacing the potential loss in pension contributions.

When looking more closely at the findings, female dentists are more vulnerable in this financial planning area, with less than a quarter feeling confident that they understand the implications and planning for short and long-term impacts. In comparison, 41% of male dentists are confident they have planned for these changes.

When faced with more immediate financial challenges, such as the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy prices, these important elements of financial planning can be deprioritised. But with inflation potentially also impacting these longer-term financial plans taking time to pay pensions some attention could be invaluable.

Pay your pension some attention, visit Wesleyan’s dedicated webpage with pension resources at to get started.

Please note: Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and may be subject to change in future.

Celebrate happiness at work with Mind Flossing cards from Mind Ninja

The Mind Flossing Toolkit officially launches today during International Week of Happiness at Work and Friendship Month and consists of a deck of cards to nurture greater well-being and resilience. 

The Happiness at Work manifesto states: ‘Let’s create a workplace to stimulate fun, appreciation, positive feedback, awesome challenges, trust, meaningful results and own responsibilities. Let us, as employees, employers, entrepreneurs, organisations, and especially as human beings, work together to make happiness at work the norm and not the exception.’

The cards themselves are a self-intervention toolkit drawing from the science of well-being – positive psychology. They are designed as a pocket-sized guide you can carry with you, to nudge you to take intentional well-being actions. Bite-size activities range from meditations and journaling to creative exercises that can be done with patients and at home.

In line with the Happiness at Work manifesto, the Toolkit offers the opportunity to explore well-being under the umbrella of mindfulness and self-compassion, including team resilience, gratitude, optimism, character strengths, values and meaning.

The benefits of using these cards include:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Emotional literacy
  • Emotional regulation
  • More effective communication
  • Improved relationships
  • Better engagement at work.

The cards also address common negative thoughts such as imposter syndrome and perfectionism (the latter is a common trait amongst dental professionals and can lead to increased psychological distress).1

Speaking about the Mind Flossing Toolkit, creator of the cards, as well as a dentist and positive psychologist, Mahrukh Kawaja – AKA Mind Ninja – commented: ‘Over the years, it has been well established that working in dentistry is stressful, with a BDA survey very sadly revealing a high level of stress and burnout amongst a survey of more than 2,000 UK dentists, 17.6% of whom admitted they had seriously thought about suicide.’

Mahrukh continued: ‘Now, of course, there are added pressures in the post Covid era. If at all possible, we need to intervene before any of our colleagues reach crisis point and that is one of the reasons why I created this deck of cards. The cards are evidence-based, drawing together many psychological strands in an effective way. What’s more, the content of every card has been carefully chosen and curated with dental professionals in mind.

Mind Ninja is also delighted to have two industry partners for the launch of the Flossing Toolkit and thanks both Acteon and NSK for their support of the initiative, with both recognising the value of the cards to support the wellbeing of dental professionals through a larger order for their customers.

These lucky recipients will be among the first to learn how to create habits that stick, by unpacking the key takeaways from psychology and neuroscience, in no small part thanks to the engaging use of illustrations that depict the diverse community in dentistry.

Stancey Coughlan, commercial director at Aceton

Recognising the exceptional psychological value of the cards is partner Acteon, on whose behalf, commercial director, Stancey Coughlan, remarked: ‘At Acteon, we strive every day to support one another and our customers in our professional endeavours. When I heard about the Mind Flossing Toolkit, I knew it was something that dental care professionals would find invaluable, to boost well-being as an individual and as part of a team.

‘But I also recognise the importance of supporting dental professionals beyond Acteon’s sphere, which is why partnering with Mind Ninja made perfect sense for our business and our ethos. We couldn’t be happier to be at the start of this journey with Mind Ninja, offering an incredible opportunity to improve well-being across the UK.’

Alex Breitenbach, Managing Director of NSK UK


Commenting on NSK’s partnership with Mind Ninja, Alex Breitenbach, Managing Director of NSK UK Ltd, stated: ‘NSK UK is delighted to be working with the Mind Flossing Toolkit as we have a common aim to improve the life of dental care professionals and their patients.

‘Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy that helps people lead a happy healthy life and now NSK has taken this concept and developed a completely new approach to oral hygiene to help dental care professionals unlock their potential to excel in daily practice.’

Nigel Jones, Sales and Marketing Director, Practice Plan Group

Also offering invaluable support is partner Practice Plan. As Nigel Jones, Sales and Marketing Director, Practice Plan Group, said: ‘One of things I’m most proud about working at Practice Plan is the way we can help to transform the working life for many dentists and their teams, with many dentists citing the reason for change being to create a better work/life balance and a less stressful working environment for the entire team. The well-being of the whole practice team is paramount and so it was an easy answer when approached to support with the Mind Flossing Toolkit. A fantastic and very simple, but effective resource for practices and their teams to remember that their well-being really does matter.’

Indeed, Mind Ninja would love to see people supporting one another other, checking in on each other’s emotional well-being. So, in celebration of their friendship and to promote all round happiness at work, why not purchase the cards for a dental colleague or your whole team, to show how much you care?

For further information and to purchase the Mind Flossing Toolkit, please visit


  1. Collin V, O’Selmo E, Whitehead P. Stress, psychological distress, burnout and perfectionism in UK dental students. Br Dent J. 2020 Nov; 229(9): 605-614. doi: 10.1038/s41415-020-2281-4. Epub 2020 Nov 13. PMID: 33188344

Government announces Job Support Scheme to replace furlough from 1 November

The government’s furlough scheme, brought in at the start of lockdown, has been a lifeline to many businesses and saved the livelihoods of millions. The furlough scheme comes to an end on 31 October and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has revealed that the new Job Support Scheme will replace it.

The Job Support Scheme will initially run for six months from 1 November until 1 May 2021. It is designed to top up the salaries of staff that businesses are unable to bring back into full-time work. Employees must work at least one-third of their regular contracted hours to be eligible. The government and employer will each pay one-third of the remaining wages to the staff member, meaning the employee takes home at least 77% of their pay. While at the height of the furlough scheme, the government paid 80% of workers’ wages, under the new scheme it will pay a maximum of 22%.

The Job Support Scheme is available to small and medium-sized businesses (often defined as organisations with 250 employees or fewer). Large businesses are also eligible so long as they can prove their revenue has fallen as a result of the pandemic.

Employees must have been on the firm’s payroll since 23 September and they can be moved on and off the scheme, or work different hours. Each working arrangement must cover at least seven days.
Workers cannot be made redundant or put on notice while a Jobs Support Scheme grant is being claimed on their behalf and, as with the furlough scheme, employers will be reimbursed by the government after the work has been done.

In addition, to further minimise unemployment, the UK government will also give firms:

  • £1,000 for every furloughed employee kept on until at least the end of January
  • £1,500 for every unemployed 16-24 year-old given a ”high quality” six-month work placement
  • £2,000 for each under-25 apprentice taken on until the end of January, or £1,500 for over-25s

Michael Copeland, senior area manager at Practice Plan parent company Wesleyan, the specialist financial mutual for dentists, commented on what the new scheme might mean for dental practices: “The Chancellor’s new measures will be welcome news for dental practitioners, many of whom are struggling to recover from impact of  lockdown. The Job Support Scheme announced today could help practices avoid redundancies and protect vital patient care services. It could also provide a further incentive for practices to bring back furloughed staff– supporting the profession’s efforts to resume a wider range of services.

“Extensions to the repayment terms of Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans will also help practices as they can keep essential cash in their business for longer. Together, steps like these will support the sector’s ongoing recovery – so essential to the wider wellbeing of the nation.”

Practice Plan marks its 25th year of helping to build strong, sustainable practices

10th August 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of Practice Plan, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded membership plans. 

The company’s 25th year has been uniquely challenging with the arrival of COVID-19 and its impact across dentistry and society as a whole. Like dental practices, Practice Plan has adapted to the situation and moved quickly to find new ways to support its customers.

For example, by creating an online COVID-19 Resource Centre which was open to everyone in recognition of the support that the profession as a whole needed and which has been seen by more than 20,000 people. Practice Plan Group also delivered over 1,000 hours of virtual support to members and halved their admin fees for practices for April and May.

Nathan Beckett

Nathan Beckett, Managing Director of Practice Plan Group and Head of Dental at Wesleyan, said, “This year has been an incredibly testing time for our customers. We knew they would remain as committed as ever to supporting their patients in whatever way they could, and we were determined to do the same for them. Despite the extremely tough times practices have found themselves in, it has been heart-warming to see how many have taken the time to tell us how much they have appreciated the financial and wider support we’ve provided since the very first week of lockdown.”

As the world continues to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, Practice Plan is continuing its support for their customers by freezing its admin fees until at least 2022.

The plan provider is also using its 25th anniversary as a chance to raise funds for the dental charity Bridge2Aid.

Nathan added: “We are proud to have achieved this milestone and would like to thank all of our practices who have supported us during the past quarter of a century – we couldn’t have done it without you. We all find ourselves in very strange times right now. But we remain dedicated to looking ahead and proactively supporting our loyal customers and welcoming new practices, helping them to keep moving forward and build strong, sustainable businesses. Together we will weather the storm and be ready for the next 25 years!”

For more information visit:

Are your customers right at the heart of your business?

By Les Jones, Creative Director at Practice Plan

In this highly competitive consumer world where customers are like gold dust, it never ceases to amaze me how many times I find myself in a situation where I’m ready to part with my money, but my supplier of choice is unable to take it.

It seems the art of grabbing defeat from the jaws of success is alive, and thriving, on the high street.

Here are two recent examples of how my desire to part with my hard-earned cash was thwarted by the very people I was trying to give it to.

One size does not fit all

I’m off on holiday in the next few weeks and, as is traditional, I thought I’d treat myself to a few new items of clothing to boost my holiday image. So, I pop into French Connection (I know what style is all about!) and I find a few pairs of trousers that seem to fit the bill. Yet, as I flick through them on the rack, something strange emerges – every single pair, in every colour are a 32-inch leg.

Now, despite the fact that I’d like to think I’m a strapping six-footer, I am, in fact, 5 ft 8 and not much more than a 29-inch leg. I ask the sales assistant if she has any of the trousers in a different length to which she says ‘no, sorry, we only do them in a 32-inch leg, you’d need to roll them up or get them shortened.’

I can only assume that the decision to restrict the trousers to just one length somehow makes the production run easier and more cost-effectively. But it’s also a sales barrier – because I don’t want to roll the trousers up and I can’t be bothered to get them shortened. So, I decide to take my business elsewhere and FCUK lose out on a £100 sale.

The breakfast deadline

I’ve written before about my cycling exploits and how every good cycle ride has a great coffee stop at the halfway point. A recent ride out was no exception. I cycled out one morning, got 25 miles under my belt and then decided it was time for breakfast. I was looking forward to an egg and bacon bagel and a great cup of coffee. I stopped at a cafe I’d not tried before and when the waitress arrived I put my order in. However, I was immediately knocked back by being informed that the bagels were part of the breakfast menu, which finished at 11am. It was now 11.20am and the lunchtime menu had kicked in – I could choose from a list of sandwiches.

Lunchtime! Who has their lunch at 11.20am?

I don’t know about you, but when you have visions of a bacon and egg bagel in your head, a cheese and pickle sandwich is not going to cut it! So, I decide to leave it and I cycle a further five miles to another cafe that is able to satisfy my growing need for breakfast.

Again, there’s probably a perfectly good reason why the cafe has organised its menu availability that way – but, I’m guessing it’s all about making things easier for them, not better for their customers.

They lost my business that day, and they’ve probably lost it for the foreseeable future. When you factor in the lifetime value, that could represent a reasonable amount of income lost.

The amazing thing is the bagel, bacon and eggs were in the building, as were the tools to cook them, as was my money – we just couldn’t do the exchange!

Barriers in your practice

I could also drone on about the car hire company that wouldn’t hire me a pre-booked car because I didn’t have a credit card – even though I had the money and the paperwork! Or the shoe shops that entice me in with their lovely displays but eight times out of ten can’t sell me a pair of shoes as they don’t have my size (7) in stock. The list goes on.

So, the question is – is any of this happening in your dental practice, are there barriers that you are inadvertently erecting which are costing you much needed income? Are you really putting the customer right at the heart of your business and responding positively to their wants and needs…or do they just have to fit in with your way of doing things?

Keeping a note of how many times patients don’t go ahead with an appointment or a treatment plan might give you some valuable insights into how you could change the way you do things to ensure the pendulum swings back in your favour.

I’m guessing that none of the examples I’ve given are isolated ones, I bet they happen every day – what wasted opportunities for those businesses involved.

Make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Les Jones is the Creative Director at Practice Plan, the UK’s number one provider of practice-branded dental plans. He has over 30 years’ experience of working within the creative and dental sectors in the fields of design, marketing and strategic consultancy. If you are interested in finding out more about how we help practices to become more profitable, call 01691 684165 or visit