Raheem Achour and Stacey Gore discuss the positive impact of their principal-only transitions to Denplan.
Located in the heart of a small but growing town in rural Suffolk, Rendlesham Dental Practice opened its doors in 2009, welcoming local families and providing mainly NHS dental care.
It was already a busy NHS practice by the time husband and wife dentists Raheem Achour and Stacey Gore became its new joint principals in 2014 when the previous owner retired.
‘We were both very familiar with the practice as the principal had been Raheem’s vocational training (VT) teacher and I was an associate here for several years,’ says Stacey.
‘We were so fortunate to be given the opportunity to take it over. It’s a spacious, purpose-built practice with plenty of further potential, a large car park and a neighbouring doctors surgery and nursery, so it already ticked plenty of boxes for us.’
Measured in terms of patient numbers, the practice was hugely successful. However, both dentists began to find it increasingly challenging to meet all their obligations and to provide the level of care they really wanted to in the short appointments they had available to them under the NHS contract.
Additionally, Raheem had been busy acquiring qualifications in implant dentistry but had little time to put his new interest into practice.
‘We’d had a handful of Denplan patients, inherited from the previous principal. So were in touch regularly with our local Denplan business consultant, Frances Lynch,’ explains Raheem.
‘She has always been a great sounding board and set out a good case for transitioning to Denplan without being at all pushy. She always had time to listen to where we wanted to go; she was really patient with us, understanding that the time had to feel right for us.
‘We gradually took on more Denplan patients alongside our NHS base and we came close to taking the plunge a couple of times, but kept hesitating. Mostly through concern that our patients, who had been loyal all this time, would jump ship and we’d lose everything we’d built up.’
Taking the plunge
In the end, it became obvious to Raheem that with no free time and having to work evenings and weekends just to keep up, something had to give.
‘I wanted to do something about it that would benefit the practice, myself and the patients. I needed to free up slots in my diary.
‘As well as allow those patients who wanted to continue with the NHS to go down that route with one of our associate dentists. But to offer anyone who preferred to stay with me and gain more of my time for their treatment to do so.’
With Stacey and a couple of associates holding the NHS fort, and Frances’s calm support throughout, Raheem triggered his transition to private dentistry offering Denplan payment plans towards the end of 2019, aiming to complete the process by March 2020.
His anxieties quickly proved to be unfounded. Huge numbers of patients recognised the beneficial changes he was proposing. They elected to sign up to Denplan and retain him as their dentist.
‘It was humbling, really,’ says Raheem. ‘The idea of transitioning was to have more time with my patients. To see people sooner. But you never quite know how it’s going to go.
‘To be honest, I am probably still a little bit too busy even now. But the transition has gone amazingly well.
‘I’ve been really thankful to my patients and to my team, they’ve all been fantastic.
‘We’ve had great support from Denplan, and especially from Frances. They’re always on the end of the phone for us when we need them.’
Key to the success of the transition was having the rest of the team on board and ensuring they felt comfortable explaining the benefits of Denplan to patients.
‘Frances’s presence was so helpful in those first few days,’ says Stacey. ‘She was on hand to answer any questions from patients and staff and really built our confidence.
‘The training she was able to provide for the team made all the difference.
‘They are all very adaptable but they needed help in presenting why this change would be good for everyone. The staff have all seen how busy we were.
‘Raheem was having to work extra hours to fit everything in. They were largely supportive of whatever change might help alleviate that.’
As a clinician, Raheem feels he is now in a far better position to carry out the dentistry that he wants to deliver and that his patients deserve.
‘Not only that, I think that offering them that time, that structure, gives my patients the tools and the motivation to improve their oral health themselves.
‘They can go and see the hygienist as part of their Denplan plan. They’re coming back with cleaner, healthier mouths. And that’s being noticed by patients and staff alike. It’s very satisfying professionally.’
The positive consequences of Raheem’s move gave Stacey the confidence to begin her own transition to private dentistry and to Denplan. This is a process that she began in November with her patient mailing.
The practice is still able to offer NHS appointments with their associate dentists. However one of them is also beginning to offer Denplan plans.
A financial point of view
From a financial point of view, the successful sign-up of so many patients onto Denplan plans has provided reassuring stability. It has freed Stacey and Raheem up to take advantage of the practice’s size by installing two additional surgeries.
It has also allowed them to expand their range of services to include Invisalign, facial aesthetics and daily hygienist appointments. Raheem is also seeing a growing number of implant patients.
‘The monthly plan-based income gives you that financial certainty, that guarantee. It’s been especially appreciated during this pandemic,’ says Raheem.
For her part, Frances has found Stacey and Raheem a delight to work with.
‘They’re both so positive, hard-working and motivated,’ she says. ‘They really listen to advice.
‘They have established such a wonderful team at the practice that it’s always a pleasure to visit them. They’ve grown their Denplan patient base rapidly, even in the challenging era of the COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve every success.’
Everyone on board
On reflection, Raheem confirms that he probably should have made the transition sooner.
‘It’s about confidence, really. It took time for me to build up the rapport I have with my patients. I had to work out when I felt the benefits would outweigh the perceived risk.
‘I would advise anyone considering making the same move to build a good relationship with your Denplan business development consultant and trust their experience.
‘Frances was really perceptive, very aware of the dilemmas you may be experiencing but always encouraging and pragmatic. We particularly appreciated her suggestions with the wording of our letters; it’s important to be honest and genuine in the way that you approach it with your patients.’
Stacey agrees: ‘I would also recommend getting your team involved from the start. We now have everyone fully on board with the vision. There’s a real sense of excitement in building up our Denplan numbers together; it’s like being part of a Denplan family. We’re really optimistic about the future and our work-life balance is so much better.’
This article first appeared in Dentistry Magazine. You can read the latest issue here.
Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.