Dina Parmar of Shine Dental Practice in Medstead explains some of the challenges in setting up a new practice
Shortly after getting married in 2008, I decided I was keen to set up my own practice with my husband, a non-dentist, as my business partner.
I had been qualified for nine years and been working as an associate. Working with somebody else as an associate can be difficult. You are obviously limited in what you can do, and sometimes in how your patients can be treated, and in equipment choices and everything else.
But it soon became clear that wanting a practice and getting one were very different things. We first decided we were going to buy an existing practice and tried that twice, but it didn’t work out. So, eventually, we decided to open our own practice and start from scratch.
We found a suitable building and set about buying it and obtaining permission for a change of use, which we secured before being ‘gazumped’ by another buyer. So we found another building and started to go through the process again. Everything was proceeding as hoped for with the purchase when I fell pregnant. With twins.
On the basis that life cannot always be planned in every detail, we carried on. The purchase of the building – an empty shell unit - was finally completed shortly before Christmas, when my daughters were two months old. The whole family took a seasonal break before building work started in January.
The plan, originally, was that my husband would deal with that side of the project while I dealt with the clinical. But then, with very inconvenient timing, he got a new job in the City. I was left with little choice but to set about learning a new vocabulary so that I could oversee the building work. You end up having to learn very quickly about cat five cabling and points…it was just very different from what I deal with on a day-to-day basis in my job. The process of negotiating staff contracts was also a new challenge.
If I’m honest, each process itself isn’t that hard, but it does mean there are a lot of balls to juggle. You have the building work, then all the equipment to find, then the software and the computers, then the actual clinical side of getting all your stock together, then dealing with staff. All in all it has been a steep learning curve.
Faced with equipping the entire practice from scratch – from the kettle and the toaster to all the exciting stuff - I approached Clark Dental for advice.
I had an idea of what I was looking for, and the feel of the practice I wanted, which was something quite modern and clean, but open and friendly at the same time.
I’d come across lots of different people who could help. The thing I liked about Clark Dental was that they would do everything. And what I didn’t want to do was go around to every Tom, Dick and Harry to get a price and then start haggling. With all the other things that were going on, I decided that life is too short. I went to Matt Rowlingson at Clark Dental and asked him to come in and look at everything. He was really good. He gave me a shopping list of everything I would need and he gave me lots of options.
As an associate, I had used numerous dental chairs and had already decided that I favoured an A-dec 300 Radius Unit. To this were added a Sirona Heliodent Plus wall-mounted X-ray machine, Apex Elite cabinetry, Sirona handpieces, a Schick USB2 intra oral camera and Cattani suction pump and oil free compressor. The Decontamination room was fitted with a Sirona Dac universal autoclave and a Medisafe Pico Evo washer disinfector, along with further Apex Elite cabinetry.
When it came to sterilisation room equipment, such as the autoclave, I was really led by Matt and what he suggested.
Fortunately, as the building work was completed, engineers from Clark Dental were able to take over. They did everything. I was there in the background, and it was a week of utter chaos. We were trying to do staff training while units were being fitted, we were trying to get everything ready for our launch and we had stock coming in, so we had to make sure everything was cross-checked. Of course, I found I had missed loads of stuff out… because you just do. It was absolute bedlam.
Included in the final preparation was a CQC audit to ensure the practice complied with the latest care standards. Despite extensive reading I have to admit to last minute nerves, but the practice passed the CQC tests without a problem. And when the opening came around, all the planning and hard work ensured that everything worked as it was meant to.