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a blog by Chris Barrow

Back to zoning (and price increases)

It would be fair to say that zoning the appointment book went out of the window last year and that, since the return to work, most practices have just been struggling to cope with excess demand.

It's still raining patients wherever I look, existing patients who want preventative maintenance, new patients who want elective procedures and those who are desperately searching for NHS treatment, largely without success.

It's a perfect scenario in which to become busy (and burned out) fools.

Here's an email extract from a Practice Manager this week:

"What is your take on non-registered patients asking for emergency appointments? We are seeing patients to get them out of pain, but then advising patients to go back to their original dentist - patients are being told that their practices have deregistered them.

So, I made a few calls to practices in our area - after calling 6 practices yesterday just to see what they say.. the responses were:

  • very long waiting list maybe seeing nhs patients in October/November

  • will see under private at £60 for an emergency app but not taking nhs patients until October

  • can see you for an emergency as a private patient but not taking nhs at the moment.

  • not taking any patients on."

Let's not get me started on the clinicians who are delivering their 60% threshold and then refusing to see any more NHS patients "because they are not getting paid for it". It gets me angry just typing that.

However, my motivation in creating this post is a gentle reminder that zoning does eventually have to make a return to your planning. The sooner the better in my opinion.

Yesterday, a client asked me for a simple and brief reminder on the key principles of zoning.


Sessions dedicated to:

Red light - Low Profit/High Volume - check ups Amber light - Medium Profit/Medium Volume - functional repair Green light - High Profit/Low Volume - cosmetic and/or complex dentistry

The secret is to allocate time in the right priority - Green first, Amber second, Red last.

The split depends on the demand for the Green time and will change over time.

New patient assessments should be handled by your TCO.

As demand remains high, it is very important, especially for Principals, to make sure that as much of your time as possible is spent in the Green zone.

As to the queues:

  • Sadly, you cannot help everyone;

  • Make your dental plan compulsory for all new patients;

  • Put your prices up

p.s. - the plan providers will be writing to you about now to review next years premiums.

Put your prices up!

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