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Private practice explored at iDay23

The business conference took place on 3 July in Birmingham

Independents Day business conference panel on people sitting in armchairs in front of a large screen.

The merits and pitfalls of going private as a practice was a key discussion at the Independents Day (iDay23) business conference, held in Birmingham on Monday 3 July.

The event was themed around Profitable Practice Post Pandemic and saw over 95 practitioners attend.

More than half of delegates were new to the event and had not attended in the previous year.

Nick Atkins, managing director of Proven Track Record, and organiser of the event, suggested the attendance figures reflected the importance of this topic.

“Some delegates had already gone private, and many were thinking of doing so and were looking to our speakers to just give them that final nudge of confidence,” he said.

The opening keynote Industrialising Optometric Practice was presented by Professor Nick Rumney, who explained how the expansion of clinical services increased profitability at his practice, which provides both NHS and private services.

Through the lecture, Rumney outlined the benefits of using data analysis to understand the costs of clinical time delivered by different members of the practice team, in order to provide a return on investment rather than only covering costs.

“Time is money, and you have to balance cost against time,” he shared.

He recommended that practices have a payment plan in place and fully digital records, and also highlighted the importance of evaluating prices regularly.

Dr Martin Smith described how underfunding in the NHS system led him to go private, and how, since switching to private practice; profitability, patient attendance and patient satisfaction has increased.

During the conference, practice owners Sophie Taylor-West, Anthony Josephson, Martin Smith, Keval Sejpar, and Keyur Patel, shared their experiences of going private, in a discussion chaired by Optix’s Trevor Rowley.

Optometrist and researcher, Dr Trusit Dave, the founder of Optimed, then shared how he drew inspiration for treatment-based services from the ophthalmology sector, and also emphasised the importance of patient consent and indemnity insurance.

He highlighted that there is set to be a 20% increase in the over 65s from 2020 to 2030, presenting a need for glaucoma support in optometry, as well as dry eye, myopia, and cataract support.

Appearing virtually at the conference, the US optometrist, Dr Samantha Hornberger, described how she had grown her practice revenue by 23%, and found that spending more time with patients had made them more accepting of her recommendations.

The conference was concluded with a debate for and against the statement of whether ‘Ditching the NHS in England is the Future of Optometry’ with Rumney and Dave opposing, and Tompkins and Josephson supporting.

Atkins added: “Looking at the pros and pitfalls of going private continues iDay’s longstanding ambition of helping independents to expand their clinical services to generate more revenue from the professional work they do.”

iDay23 will take place on 8 July 2024, themed Commercialising Dry Eye.

This article was updated on 20/07/2023 in response to a request from a contributor.