What a difference a decade makes
In January 2007, Blackhills Specialist Dental Clinic opened for business. A decade on, Scottish Dental spoke to clinic director and specialist oral surgeon Paul Stone about the changes he has seen over this time.
What can you remember of that first day?
“To be honest, I can’t remember much of the first day – it was all a bit chaotic, but very exciting! I do recall holding the door open to welcome the first patient into the clinic and then after that, it was just down to work. My business partner (Ken Watkins, now retired) and I were both part-time with a single shared nurse (Stacy) and our manager/receptionist/typist (Trudie Imrie) holding everything else together (as she still does). We knew we had to start gently and see how things progressed.”
How has your staffing developed over this time?
“We started with just the four of us – two clinicians (oral surgery and prosthodontics), a nurse and a manager. Now we have seven clinicians covering multiple specialties (restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, oral surgery and dental/maxillofacial radiology). All of them are part-time, most also working at Scottish dental hospitals and universities.
Our working relationship with the dentists who trust us and refer their patients is paramount
“Our part-time senior hygienist is invaluable, providing expert support for all the specialties and interacting directly with many of the dentists who refer to us. We have seven nurses with a senior nurse who assists with some of management work – all are very experienced in supporting our specialists in the many aspects of the complex clinical dentistry they undertake.
“A general duties assistant with an operating theatre background runs the sterilisation unit and the clerical staff have increased to two medical secretaries (to keep up with all the reports we provide) and a receptionist, with the clinic manager Trudie overseeing everything. From four to 20 in 10 years, sums us up now.”
Why do you have so many dental specialties represented at Blackhills
“As the clinic developed and we appreciated the needs of the dentists who refer patients to us, it became apparent that, in order to provide a full adult dentistry specialist referral service, we would need to ensure that all specialties were represented. It has taken a few years to get everyone in place, but now we are able to work together as multi-disciplinary teams, with each specialist bringing their own perspective and skills to help manage the more complex cases. It is not unusual for three or four different specialties (and our hygienist) to be involved in a single treatment plan and we feel that this gives the best outcome for the patient.
“We feel that, with the developments we have seen in both the technology and the ‘knowledge’ of dentistry, it is no longer possible for a single dentist to be fully aware of all the possible treatment options or which might be most appropriate for some of the complex cases referred to us, so our team approach is a very important part of what we do.”
Your main area of interest is in implant surgery. What has been the biggest change you have seen in implant dentistry over the last 10 years?
“It’s difficult to identify a single change, but it would probably be the increasing knowledge we have of which treatments and which techniques are most predictable. This is really what our patients are most interested in and the large amount of research being carried out around the world (including a number of ground-breaking studies at Blackhills Clinic) means that we now have many more answers to the dilemmas that used to challenge us.”
How many patients have been seen at your clinic and from how far away do they travel?
“We have now seen more than 8,000 patients and received referrals from more than 800 different dentists. They come from all over Scotland including flying from the Hebridean Isles. Our central location, just south west of Perth on the main A9, means that we are within an hour’s drive for most of the population. We have a few who travel from much further afield, particularly one American couple from the Bahamas, and another ex-pat couple who drive all the way from Spain for their treatment.”
What would you do differently if you could start again?
“It’s always tempting to say you would like to progress things faster, but I think the time we took developing the way we now work was necessary. It takes vision and organisation from all the staff and clinicians to develop the many little processes that make the whole ‘machine’ work effectively. This could never be achieved overnight.
“If I could start again, I’d probably include a bigger storage space for archiving everything we have to these days. The one we have is barely large enough now…”
What aspect of Blackhills Clinic are you most proud of?
“Personally, I’m most proud that I had the courage to actually do it – to create what I believed would really benefit patient care whist working in close cooperation with the referring dentist.
“From the clinic perspective, I’m most proud of the way all the specialists work together with absolutely no egos or agendas. Everyone is always committed to trying to do the best they can for the patients – it’s a very positive environment and professionally, highly rewarding.”
Have you realised your initial expectations?
“Actually, I’m not sure what they really were, apart from trying to practice the kind of complex dentistry I had been trained to provide and to enjoy it in the process! I’m very pleased with how it’s gone, but I’m not going to allow complacency to creep in – it’s hard work, but worth it.”
What are your plans for the next 10 years?
“It’s all about the team at Blackhills – we want to keep developing the range of predictable treatments we offer, across the full range of specialties. Our working relationship with the dentists who trust us and refer their patients is paramount and we have a series of educational activities planned so that we can use this opportunity to develop our association with colleagues.
“We will continue to respond to the comments and wishes of patients and dentists and although we are the first to admit that perfection isn’t always possible, the great support we have from both groups encourages us that there are many very satisfied people who have referred to or been treated by one or more of the Blackhills team.
“Finally, can I say a huge thank you to the many hundreds of colleagues who have referred to Blackhills Specialist Clinic. Please don’t stop! To those who have yet to experience working with our all-specialist clinic, please contact us, come and visit the clinic or attend one of our events.”
For more information, visit www.blackhillsclinic.com and click ‘refer your patient’ for secure online referrals.
To contact the clinic, call 01764 664 446 or email email@example.com