Shaun Smith and Simon Nocton take us on the journey that took their practice from run down to award winning and fitting of its iconic location
We have always believed in striving to be the best that we can, for us, for the patients and for the whole team. This requires us to continually invest in education, technology and staff training. In 1989 The Dental Surgery was a rundown, two-man NHS practice. Today it has 14 surgeries, 30,000 private patients, and 200-plus new patients a month.
This growth was achieved without a marketing campaign, with the exception of one of the first dental websites, thedentalsurgery.co.uk (1997). We think the numbers prove that our approach is right, which is to treat people with respect and dignity, treating them with the best of ethics and morals, while communicating the need, implications and costs of the treatment transparently.
Back in 1998, The Dental Surgery was located in Plantation House, a landmark City building, and the owners decided to redevelop the site. This gave us an opportunity to relocate and, after a lengthy process of viewing and negotiations, we decided on the Corn Exchange.
We had decided to remodel and renovate The Dental Surgery four years ago – when the space next to our Corn Exchange offices became available – as we had outgrown our offices as they were. We felt we could, and needed to, improve on what we had. The space next door was ideal for us as it had good lighting and we thought it would marry easily into our existing space.
Then followed four very frustrating years of negotiations with our landlords – and many thousands of pounds – to successfully gain a lease for the new space. Once we finally resolved terms, we were able to commence the planning and design stage of the process.
The big issues when you’re in a City building revolve around landlords and consent, which aren’t particularly difficult to organise but they can be frustratingly slow to resolve. In our case, it took about six to eight weeks to obtain authorisation. We surrendered our existing lease in April 2011 and took a new 15-year lease on the combined space.
The building work started in June 2011 and was effectively completed in January 2012. We benefited from having a very familiar team to work with – we’ve known Mark Wheatstone and Darren Hare of The Dental Directory for 20 years as they’ve helped us with four major projects in that time.
Look and feel
The look and feel of the new practice evolved over time and was very much a team effort. In particular, our practice manager Bridget McGrade was heavily involved in the whole process and we’re very grateful for her dedication and hard work in making it happen as smoothly as it did.
More than anything, we did not want the premises to look like a dental surgery, so we introduced beautiful thick, curved marble walls in the reception area and waiting room. The ‘leaves’ theme continues throughout the practice, including our new stationery. There’s a nice contrast between the earthy, neutral shades in the main areas and the blue that we’ve introduced in the dentists’ and hygienists’ rooms.
We’ve also updated the staff uniforms. Now, we’re all wearing the same blue uniforms so there’s no demarcation between staff members, emphasising that we’re all part of the same team.
Old and new
As we saw it, the difficulty was twofold. Firstly, marrying the old and the new together seamlessly and, secondly, how to keep functioning as a dental practice during the project. We addressed the first point by redoing the whole of the existing premises and, through strict organisation and the support of our wonderful patients, successfully managed the second point: we didn’t close down for a single day.
A major criticism we had of our old operation was that everyone had to enter and exit the practice through the same door. Added to this, the reception area and waiting room were in very close proximity. Patients were able to hear conversations about financial matters and treatment issues as they sat in the waiting area – absolutely not the first impression we wanted to achieve.
Now, we have a much better flow where patients come in, are welcomed at reception and they relax in the waiting area. Patients are called, collected from the main meet and greet area by their dentist or hygienist and, upon completion of the appointment, delivered to the main administration area, where further appointments are made, monies collected and so on, in a more private space.
We’ve added a separate door for our team members to access the new staff room, which means they can exit the practice without passing through the waiting room or reception. Their coats and bags are there, so patients aren’t disturbed by any bustle, or see the team without their uniform on, allowing us to maintain a very professional image at all times.
The refurbishment enabled us to gain three extra surgeries taking us up to 14; all of which had to be visually high impact as well as functional and compliant with industry regulations. Each surgery has the latest equipment, such as remote controlled cameras, as well as strips of blue lighting that fits the new theme while giving a feeling of daylight.
We have a separate room dedicated to our state-of-theart CT scanner and we’re very proud of our new central sterilising and disinfecting area. We’re incredibly proud of our staff and their behaviour, attitude and response both during the project and afterwards. We’ve seen them getting involved and taking ownership and we can tell how much they want the practice to improve and succeed. Some of the team members have been here for 20 years and they still managed to surprise and impress us.