Principal dentist Dr Nadine Skipp discusses her recent practice relocation, highlighting the main considerations
Whether you’re relocating or simply refurbishing your existing practice, the first step you must take is finding a team you know you can work with and trust.
It’s hard enough to work “in” our business – treating our patients day-to-day – as well as working “on” our businesses by keeping track of the myriad essential business activities on a daily basis. Include an involved project like a practice redevelopment into your busy schedule and you can soon find yourself in deep water.
This is something that I have experienced before, so when it came to relocating my practice recently, I knew I simply had to appoint a team that would help take the strain throughout the entire project.
To this end, I contacted ASPECTS, a reputable and established building firm that specialises in dental clinics. I have worked with them in the past when I was building my initial start-up clinic, so I was confident that they would deliver a service I could rely on.
I simply cannot emphasise the importance of working with experienced dental builders. ASPECTS is known for professionalism and exceptional expertise. The team project-managed and liaised with all the associated parties of my relocation, ensuring everything proceeded smoothly. The result of ASPECTS’ commitment is a second outstanding clinic – of which I feel extremely proud.
Other members of the team are crucial for any practice relocation, including an architect and a specialist dental equipment engineer. Ideally, all these elements will work together homogenously – but it is particularly important for your architect and equipment engineer to understand exactly what you want as your final outcome, from clinic layout to chair position.
It is not enough to simply request that your existing layout be translated perfectly to your new location – you must stay actively involved throughout the process or you may be disappointed with the result.
You will also need to speak to your bank manager to secure a bank loan. This needs to be addressed relatively early on, so you must organise an expense summary based on quotes and estimates from your builders, engineers and architect in order to justify the loan. Remember, loans can be granted at £300,000 without security but it is usually a requirement to have life insurance to protect your finances beforehand.
Once you have this specialist team behind you, you can rest assured that the work will be carried out efficiently and professionally. But don’t take this as an opportunity to rest on your laurels – there’s still a great deal to do!
Assess your competition
Ideally, you will have found your new location early on and decided to buy or lease the property. In either case you need to bring your lawyer and accountant on board to help. You’ll need to agree on the Heads of Terms with the landlord of the property if you are leasing – and while these should be beneficial for both parties do not be surprised if they slightly favour the landlord over the lessee.
It’s also important to assess your potential competition – complete your due-diligence on other clinics in the area, focusing on what treatments they offer and whether they are NHS or private. You will also need to assess the demographic and population size in the area in order to best tailor your services to the demand.
If the new premises are not already listed as D1 Dental, you’ll need to change planning permissions. This usually takes between six- to eight-weeks, but in my case, it took 18, which slowed the project substantially – so be prepared for the possibility of delays and plan accordingly.
Your new building must be compliant with the latest building and fire regulations. Fortunately, my builders were fully up-to-date with current regulations, as these change on a regular basis – you now need to ensure your toilet seat is an appropriate colour for visually impaired patients. Your builder will advise that everything is as it should be, which will save you time and expense further down the line.
The CQC will also need to inspect your premises before you can open for business, so it is vital that you arrange an appointment as early as possible – the CQC inspector has to fit you into their schedule, and you could be losing business waiting for them.
These are the major elements you must consider when relocating your practice – but there are myriad smaller (but equally important) issues you will need to address. For example, you need to arrange your utilities – either cancelling existing policies and restarting them at your new location or finding new providers.
You need to organise your Cardnet system, your waste collection, water testing and dental suppliers – even your post will need re-directing: nothing can be forgotten. Don’t forget your signage either – you will need prior approval from your landlord and the council.
All of these considerations are vital to a successful relocation, but realistically, they are too numerous for one busy dentist to manage on their own. It is too much like spinning plates – and should one of those plates smash, you could be looking at thousands of pounds of extra expense to put things right.
I wholeheartedly recommend bringing together an experienced team that you can trust to produce the level of quality you are striving to achieve. It’s almost certainly worth the cost – if you cut corners and hire cheaper companies, or those that aren’t dental specific, you could be forced to pay astronomical fees should something go wrong.
I am incredibly grateful that my team worked together so well to produce a clinic I am excited to work in day after day – the ASPECTS building team carried me through everything, and I am convinced I could not have achieved what I have without ASPECTS’ advice, support and commitment.
Dr Nadine Skipp is the Principal and Founder of AURA Centre of Dental Excellence and Facial Aesthetics in Kingston upon Thames. She has fulfilled many educational roles throughout the profession and was awarded a Fellowship from the International Academy for Dental and Facial Esthetics in 2014. She is also partner of SOURCE1uk - Dental Recruitment, Training Courses, Classifieds and Practice Sales