1. What advice would you give someone buying their first practice?

Look for those things that you can easily improve but always exercise a degree of caution. If you're purchasing an established practice don't 'throw the baby out with the bathwater'....get a feel for the practice first then plan carefully how you will upgrade. If you can make huge improvements, make them straight away. If the practice is buzzing, introduce changes carefully.

2. What equipment would you recommend for a decontamination room? There are horror stories about the reliability of some equipment.

The best advice is to take a look at how other practices have embraced 'Best Practice'. It will quickly become apparent to you those who are doing it well and those who are not and which equipment is reliable. Armed with this information you can then make objective decisions on the equipment you need. This is important....it's very easy to get talked into buying equipment that may be unsuitable and/or unnecessary

3. Does an LDU need specialist cabinetry?

The simple answer is 'yes' if you want it to last. Cabinetry designed for kitchens or surgeries is not suited to the damp and humid atmosphere of a decontamination room and will quickly deteriorate

4. What is the best material for a surgery cabinet worktop?

Without question solid surfaces such as Corian and Parastone are best suited to purpose because they are hygienic and durable. We've been through the 'fashion parade' with other materials such as glass and stone tops and they can't compete with solid surfaces

5. Do you have any suggestions for instrument storage and access?

Currently the most efficient solution is central storage with generic instruments easily accessed by all surgeries. We have devised storage systems such as Hangline that help eliminate clutter and minimise downtime

6. What exactly is meant by 'the patient journey' and how should I improve it for my patients?

The short answer is to consider it as the experience the patient takes away from your practice. There are always dangers in generalising, but as a rule of thumb if you are targeting NHS patients then the focus should be on efficiency. If your primary market is private patients you need to create 'a brand' and give that brand the values that reflect the values of your patients. The best advice here is to seek expert advice if you want the job done well. It involves more than printing a few leaflets and smartening up your website

7. What is the best configuration for dental cabinetry?

There is no simple answer as so many variables need to be factored in. To do the job properly requires more than taking measurements and recommending how an agreed number of cabinets can be fitted in. Before we recommend anything, we would establish the way you and your team work and the type of dentistry you do. We would check out proximity and access to your decontamination room. We would talk to you about the type of chair and delivery system you prefer. We would ascertain if the surgery is to be used by any other clinician......the list goes on. Well designed cabinetry in a well designed surgery will not only increase your efficiency, it will reduce stress and be far more comfortable to work in

8. Have you any basic advice for minimising downtime?

Take a cold, hard look at your practice and its working processes. Is everything in its place or are some (if not all) areas cluttered? Clutter equals inefficiency equals loss of profit. No one can work at their best in an untidy environment. Put this right and put in place protocols that ensure standards don't slip. Regular staff training will help and will improve morale

9. What are the key considerations for reception design?

The atmosphere in a reception area should be relaxed and free from any obvious tension. So the first important rule is to create an environment in which your reception staff is happy and comfortable. Pay attention to colour and use of light and try and use available space to best advantage. People relax more when their personal space is not invaded...so the more you can give them, the better. And avoid barriers at all costs. The 'us' and 'them' reception desk should be relegated to history.

10. How can I best future proof my practice?

It is difficult to predict the future with certainty but there are a couple of simple things you can do that will stand you in good stead. Firstly make sure you incorporate IT connections and secondly try to design your practice so that colour schemes can be quickly updated. It's amazing how a simple change in decor can keep a practice looking fresh and up-to-date

11. I'm going to have to move my practice. What advice would you give?

Look on this as a great opportunity to put right anything you may have got wrong in the past. Invest in doing the job properly and make sure you commission a feasibility study. If you cut corners you will regret it.

12. I'm doing up my practice for sale. What advice would you give?

Make sure you achieve Best Practice. If you fail to do this the money you will lose on the sale will be more than the cost of bringing your practice up to spec

13. How can I reach 'Best Practice' when I don't have the space?

Quite often you have got the space but need an expert eye to point it out. Look seriously at relocating. It will give you a once in a lifetime opportunity to make that jump up the ladder. The best thing about making a move is that you can get everything right before you close the old and open the new. Look seriously at your pension for investment.

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