Dr Mark Hughes is a Clinical Lead for Bupa Dental, which is a member of the Association of Dental Groups. Here, he discusses how his daily life has changed since joining the corporate…
It has been just over two years since Bupa Dental acquired our group of practices. I was previously a partner in the business, based in the City, West End and Canary Wharf. Our focus was primarily corporate dental clients, with an emphasis on dental insurance schemes alongside private patients.
I took on the role of Clinical Lead for the group, while also caring for a full patient list. Having been involved from 1998 to 2014, I had become very busy with regular and new clients covering all aspects of general dental care. In addition, I was liaising with the other dentists, dental nurses and hygienists regularly to identify any issues. We prided ourselves on responding to clinical and personal concerns quickly, despite the increasing size of the group.
When we announced the change of ownership, there were varied concerns from both the clinical and administrative staff. I suppose we all have an image of a faceless, financially driven, uncaring business when the word ‘corporate’ is linked with dental practice, so there was a degree of scepticism to manage. As there had been a long consultation process prior to the sale, however, we were convinced that the new group shared our goals and beliefs in how to care for patients and move the business forward. As such, we were pleased to find these concerns did not come to fruition.
I was offered the role of Clinical Lead within Bupa alongside my usual clinical duties. This has involved being a part of the clinical governance process including audits, interviewing new clinicians, complaint handling and acting as a link between practitioners and management. I was keen to undertake this role to facilitate the transition between private and corporate ownership, as well as helping the continuity of patient care.
Which brings me to the main question many will ask – what is it like working as part of a large organisation?
First the caveats; I came from a relatively large group practice where, whilst clinical autonomy was valued, there was a sense of team and shared attitudes to patient care. We had a very low turnover of staff and encouraged meetings and communication in what we hoped was a relaxed working environment.
Also the experience we had joining the corporate were, it goes without saying, unique to our situation and the attitudes and approach of the management team.
I hope that I can comment from a relatively impartial standpoint despite being pro-takeover from the outset. In addition, part of what I can report comes from the opinions expressed to me from other staff members after 18 months of new ownership.
So what has changed? On a day-to-day basis, very little. Bupa Dental has great belief in clinical freedom while remaining aligned with mainstream dental thinking. This extends to a very broad, though not limitless, choice of materials, along with keeping individual dentists’ favoured laboratories open to them. In fact, when the practices meet for CPD evenings, exploring new techniques and materials is actively encouraged. This is not to say that the commercial aspects of the dental business are overlooked, rather that the importance of high clinical standards is a priority. This leads to another plus of operating within a larger group; the depth of clinical experience available across the whole spectrum of general and specialist dentistry. The ability to send an email out across such a large number of dentists asking for opinions cannot be underestimated. What’s more, a larger corporate can market and promote its services, skills and individual practices to a much wider audience than could be achieved by a single practice.
I think some of the benefits of working for a large organisation depend on your perspective – for example, a practice owner will drastically reduce their paperwork by selling to a corporate and becoming an associate. In my experience, other members of the team have reported seeing little difference in their administrative responsibilities, or indeed a slight increase in line with the corporate’s emphasis on self audit and appraisal. Whether this is symptomatic of working for a large organisation, or merely representative of the increasing governance faced by all clinical staff, is debatable – similarly, some people appreciate the email reminders and others find them intrusive!
Ultimately, the fact that the practice I work in is owned by a corporate has made little impact to the way I approach my clinical day – I have retained my clinical freedom and responsibility to patients. However it’s great to know that I have the support of a larger healthcare company backing me up so I can focus on being a dentist.
To find out more about the ADG and member groups, please visit http://www.dentalgroups.co.uk
NB: The views expressed in this and similar columns by individual ADG members are intended to stimulate constructive debate about current issues in dentistry. Thoughts are the authors’ own and not necessarily those of the ADG.