Nigel Jones

Successful Management – Tackling The Pressures Of Managing Your Practice

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Nigel Jones, Sales Director at Practice Plan, talks about the importance of having a sense of control when managing a practice, and where to seek the appropriate advice should you require it.

It’s not often a very enjoyable and positive evening with two happy and motivated partners at a dental practice in the North West leaves you worrying, but this one did.

It was only on the drive home I started reflecting on how dissimilar this situation was to many others discussions in which I had become involved. Perhaps a biased sample as I find I am increasingly used as a sounding board for both private and NHS practices wrestling with particular business issues; practice finances and profitability or the challenge of meeting CQC requirements, though for a growing number it’s about bringing forward retirement in order to ‘escape’.

With financial pressures affecting patient attendance and treatment plan uptake for over four years and more recently the CQC for many this hasn’t been an abrupt decision. Though for me, my evening in the North West jolted me into a realisation of just how many are feeling the heat from the combined effects of; the economy, regulation, the uncertainty about the NHS and the rise in litigation and are in danger of reaching boiling point.

These deliberations were reinforced only a few days later following two thought-provoking threads relating to stress and disillusionment felt by many dental practitioners being posted on GDPUK. Various sensitive and helpful contributions were made to these threads, and brought home to me, not for the first time, just how isolated members of the dental profession can feel and how all of us, more so those whose roles take us into a number of practices, need to look out for signs that the pressure is getting too much for some, and offer the appropriate help.

Most of the time, simply being the sounding board mentioned previously can be sufficient, however some situations require different actions; for example, talking through a plan of attack can often have the effect of helping a person regain a sense of control, though in other instances, the only way of easing the pressure and regaining control was by dissecting the business performance of the practice, an exercise often best carried out with the assistance of a specialist business advisor. At a time when finances can be stretched, splashing out on such guidance can seem to be counterintuitive, but there are a growing number of examples where such a step has saved a practice and salvaged a career, so I, for one, would have no hesitation in pointing some people in this direction.

Very occasionally, what is needed, as the GDPUK threads highlighted, is the expertise available from organisations such as The Dentists’ Health Support Trust or, particularly if dento-legal matters are adding to the stress, from the Dental Protection Counselling Service. That isolation and pressure felt by so many within the profession can be a dangerous combination and it might be that a simple telephone call provides the release that makes the difference.

These are difficult and challenging times and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the task of managing a modern-day dental practice. However, it is still very possible to find dentistry rewarding and fulfilling, and with the appropriate advice at the appropriate time from the appropriate person, to see the wood for the trees.

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