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a blog by Chris Barrow

What British dentistry (and others) can learn from Irish dentistry

Returning to a hire car for three days this week has had the predictable consequence that I’m miles behind with emails and projects as my beloved working train journeys didn’t occur.

I’ve now reached the stage where I’m getting emails that read “just checking that you received my email on Monday?” – does that ever happen to you?

Today’s Quality Plan workshop at the Hilton Templepatrick will be full on – we have a huge audience – and so it’s going to be a few days before I can catch up – bear with me.

After an excellent Monday meeting in Glasgow with the SCED management team, it was over to Dublin on Monday night and, after my check-in at Hertz, I took possession of a Golf GTI that was to become a trusted companion in the stormy and snowy weather that lay ahead of me.

Four years of not driving for living has left me far behind in the car technology stakes and I have to admit a few “oohs” and “aahs” as I plugged my iPhone into the USB and my home page appeared on the dashboard – that’s cool.

Then it was off to Dublin city centre, Galway and Sligo over the following 48 hours.

Ireland is booming and Dublin is double-booming. The contrast with post-Brexit Britain is remarkable and reflected in the present position and prospects for the clients I’ve been working with in the last few days.

The conversation about business is is a positive one, nobody is talking about collapsing corporates, the decline of NHS funding, orthodontic tender chaos, the reducing supply of associates, young dentists leaving the profession, regulation, compliance and, ultimately, “is now the time to sell?”

What I’ve been hearing this week is “how best do we take advantage of the booming economy around us?”

Bear in mid also that, in Ireland:

  1. orthodontics is delivered by orthodontists – so there is no stampede to jump on a perceived STO gravy train;

  2. hygiene is delivered by hygienists – there is no “direct access’ or therapy-led maintenance conversation;

  3. obviously, there is no NHS (although the medical card system is in place);

  4. there are no membership plans because the direct debit system is too complicated;

  5. there is little external patient finance (similar reasons);

  6. prices are generally higher than the UK (which produced a thriving market for cross-border trade before Brexit voters killed sterling).

So the savvy dentists are focusing on the dental implant market – and that business is booming just the same as the rest, with high-value treatment plans flying out of some doors.

Take a look at this business

They are not clients of mine – I’ve never had a conversation with the owners – but they have come up in conversation at every meeting I’ve attended this week because they have grown exponentially as a private squat in Dublin.

Irish dentistry is an incredible place right now.

And here’s the moral of my tale – 10 years ago the Celtic Tiger died and Ireland was plunged into recession as the property market plummeted, celebrity bankruptcies were announced and the skies darkened.

Here we are today, in a boom economy.

So, even though I’m dismayed (sic) by Brexit, by the attitude of many Brits, by the perilous state of some sectors of UK dentistry, I recall the words of a certain Edward Grylls:

“the pain doesn’t last forever”

In Ireland, the pain is over.

In the UK, the pain is beginning and we have to get our heads down, get to work, push through the it, accept that it may be years before we see economic sunlight again and persevere.

I think we are pretty good at that.

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