Going private

Many hands were raised by delegates at the Optix conference this week when asked if they were considering going private in the future

practice waiting room

Earlier this week in a room full of eye care practitioners, I listened to the owners of four independent practices from across the UK share their experiences of changing their business models and going private. They all had very different patient bases and have all opted to stop offering NHS sight tests, designing and implementing new private models, during the pandemic.

The discussion took place on the opening day of the Optix Software conference, hosted at Celtic Manor and attended by around 300 delegates.

Venturing across to Newport to attend my first conference since the start of the pandemic, the event is usually hosted annually by the practice management software provider, and had been rescheduled four times during the pandemic. But it was fifth time lucky for Optix and its founder, Trevor Rowley.

Opening the conference, the aim of the session was to share experiences and, hopefully, dispel the myth that private practice can only work in affluent locations.

Rowley, who also owns private practice Viewpoint Opticians in York, shared his belief that private practice is “where the industry is going.”

Optometrist and owner of Maskell + Josephson in Altrincham, Anthony Josephson, opened the discussion speaking to delegates about his practice’s new pricing model. Sharing advice for those considering going private, he highlighted: “You need to differentiate yourself from practices that offer NHS sight tests. You can’t just offer the same as the practice down the High Street who is providing the service under the NHS. Patients need to be getting more.”

Optometrist Keval Sejpar, who owns McAusland Optometrists in Exmouth, shared insight into the planning process he undertook in order to emerge from lockdown as a fully private practice. Offering a series of tips, he advised practitioners considering going private to “figure out why you want to do it;” “make sure you are good enough;” and “model, plan and test.”

Reflecting on moving to a private model, Sejpar said: “It’s been truly liberating clinically.”

Optometrist David Bennett, owner of Brooks and Wardman Optometrists in Nottingham, was on hand to cover communicating the change to patients. In making the change, “how I communicated with my NHS patients was a big worry,” he admitted. In sharing his experiences, he provided a series of tips and emphasised that practitioners should “never apologise” for the change, nor “moan or whinge” about why.

Concluding the talk was dispensing optician and co-owner of Coleman Opticians, Katie Fenn. Based in Norwich, prior to going private, almost 90% of the practice’s database were NHS patients. She too admitted that she was initially “terrified” about going private and informing staff and patients about the change. She encouraged practice owners considering the change to “talk to each other and learn from each other.”

If you have gone private over the last two year, OT is interested to hear about your experiences. Email our Newsdesk.

OT  asks...

Are you considering going private?
  • No

    38 16%
  • Yes

    130 55%
  • Unsure

    32 13%
  • I have already

    34 14%