Future Healthcare Together

Traditional businesses have shareholders and those shareholders own the business. The role of the directors is to run the business in a profitable fashion in such a way as to give the shareholders a return on their investment.

One of the problems in this model is the disconnect between the shareholders, the people actually delivering the service and the customers. All too often the emphasis is put on the financial return rather than on delivering the service that the customer actually wants or needs.

This can be seen in the mis-selling of PPI, pensions and other financial services.

Because this business model of shareholders is accepted as the norm it has become increasingly popular in dentistry – and our fear is that these same pressures to create the return will, and indeed are, being placed upon the point of service delivery which ultimately affects the customer – in other words the patient.

When we set up Future Health Partnership (FHP) we wanted to ensure that this financial pressure was removed or at least significantly reduced, and so we selected and employee ownership model to move forwards with.

But how to do this?

After looking at our own experiences in the sector and talking to dental practitioners, the answer seemed to be to incoporate dental practice owners who wish to remain within their team, at the same level of clinical input for around five years. The practice is brought into the consortium and immediately handed back for joint ownership by the entire team. All of the team become partners within FHP and share an equal vote with all of the existing partners across the group. The team, generally speaking, maintain their employee rights and don’t take on any liability but take responsibility for managing the business for their own benefit, and the benefit of all future staff. With no shareholders, so profits are not flowing out to external stakeholders, surplus funds stay within the organisation, developing the business for all current and future staff.

Dealing with administrative burdens varies from practice to practice but sharing back office administration and administrative functions allows practices to focus on what they do best – delivering excellent patient care – and leave the irritating details/jobs to others. And the shared support comes into its own when you begin to factor in Care Quality Commission compliance.

My organisation, FHP, operates an open book system. We share all financial information with all of the team, nothing is hidden and everyone can see what is going on which the board truly believe is a unique, sustainable and ethical way to run a dental practice for the benefit of the team and the patients.

With the changes in the NHS towards an emergency service only we believe that the time is now right for healthcare to make a radical move away from the old shareholder model, towards a more sustainable and community-based employee ownership model.

What does the future hold?

In dentistry, as in many other parts of the NHS, there are pressures to do more for, and with, less. So if we can find ways to help medical and dentistry practitioners focus on excellent service and care rather than paperwork and business planning, that has to make sense. We are of course a young business with many years ahead of us, dentistry is our steppingstone into the delivery of healthcare across the UK, and we’re looking forward to making a difference to the lives of millions of people based on our values of honesty, professionalism and integrity.