Dr Tim Sunnucks qualified from the University of Bristol in 1988 and subsequently completed an MSc in Restorative Dental Practice. As well as having a keen interest in all aspects of restorative dentistry, Dr Sunnucks is on the specialist register in Endodontics, and works as a specialist at Thayer Street Dental Centre, part of the Oasis Dental Care Group and by extension the Association of Dental Groups (ADG). Here he explores what it is like to work within a dental corporate and discusses ‘a day in the life…’
I have been at the Thayer Street practice since it was established 17 years ago as an independent practice. It then became part of a small dental corporate group called Ora, before joining the Oasis Dental Care network. The transition from independent to corporate dentistry in this case was reasonably seamless.
Aside from practising in the Thayer Street clinic, I also carry out endodontics at two other practices. On a Friday I work in a practice in Highgate and on a Monday afternoon I work in Harley Street. Both of these practices are independent rather than corporate, but the treatments provided in each are very similar.
My workload and daily routine tends to vary day-to-day and week-to-week, partly because of my work in other practices and partly due to the variety of my work. But, on an average day in the Thayer Street practice I might see about eight patients in total. However, it really is hard to generalise as some appointments may naturally be longer than others and the number of patients I see obviously varies accordingly.
The patients that I see tend to be a mixture of those referred from other clinicians and some who are under general care. It is probably roughly 50/50 between treating endodontic patients and general restorative dentistry.
Aside from treating patients, my day is made up of a lot of correspondence, either completing referral letters internally or externally, note writing – which over the last few years has become more time consuming – and answering emails or phone calls providing opinions to professionals both within and outside the practice.
There are also a number of internal and external meetings that I attend on a fairly regular basis, which is much the same for independent or corporate practices. I am involved with the London Dental Study Club, as well as a study club which we run from the practice and other lecture commitments. This is all balanced alongside a fairly busy family life outside of work, juggling time with two young kids and often training for an upcoming marathon or similar event.
On a day-to-day internal level I have found that there is less difference between the management within a corporate or independent practice than one might expect and I am heavily involved clinically with the day-to-day decision-making and running of the practice.
The management structure in Thayer Street is very similar to that of many other corporate practices. There is a Practice Manager, who reports to an Area Manager who looks after a number of practices, and then it goes upwards into the corporate hierarchy. In our practice we will have intermittent visits from members of the Head Office team with regular email or phone contact when something needs to be implemented, and on the whole our interaction with them works well. A lot of the time, as long as the practice is running well, it is left without any disruption.
If we need management support, they are easily contactable and always willing to help where they can. At the moment, for example, we are undergoing a refurbishment in the practice. This is one area where Head Office have obviously had more input, as details need to be arranged to ensure that all necessary standards and regulations are met and the whole process runs as smoothly as possible.
Working within any large organisation comes with similar challenges in terms of reporting structure. If you want something done or changed, there is obviously a pathway to follow which is clearly different to the situation in an independent practice. It is beholden on the group to maintain a sense of continuity, whether through ordering, choice of employees or working standards and so this can at times take longer. Of course, we all understand this, but for some this is seen as the biggest challenge.
I think times are changing but, historically, being a referral practice that is part of a corporate was not necessarily an advantage. In the past people had been slightly suspicious of corporate practices, but this doesn’t seem to be the case any more, particularly as an increasing number of practices are incorporated into larger groups. Generally clinicians will choose to refer their patient to someone they think is a good dentist, regardless of whether this is part of a larger group or not and being part of a larger team does help to develop professional relationships as well as communication.
This article was first published in May 2016