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The waiting list fallacy

Colin Campbell
by Colin Campbell on 18/04/21 18:00


Many people in dentistry are now celebrating the 16 week waiting list. 

In terms of the feelings of safety that this brings for ‘future orders’ it’s remarkable. 

People are able to relax on the basis that there’s enough patients (therefore money) in front of them all the way into the summer. 

From an individual perspective that feels wonderful and many people are celebrating this throughout private dentistry as demand exceeds supply for the current time. 

This is not a long-term strategy though, because effectively what happens is that business turnover is trapped in a waiting list and cannot be collected. 

Patient satisfaction decreases and clinical excellence goes out of the window. 

This happens because the time to see patients, who require it at short notice or worse to see patients who have a complication, is so restricted, that service begins to diminish. 

This is not a new phenomenon and is well recognised in all aspects of business but perhaps not so well recognised in dentistry. 

The attitude of many NHS general dental practitioners (and for some years I practised as an NHS general practitioner) starts to edge towards the ‘there’s always another NHS patient so service is less necessary’. 

The risk in private dentistry now is that the same thing will prevail. 

Many of us have set up our private dentistry business on the basis of service and patient experience and the risk of the 16 week waiting list is that this falls down as we manage the madness, only to find at the other end that we’ve effectively damaged our brand (and our teams moral) in the chase that the waiting list creates. 

Patients in pain or patients in a hurry would like to be seen this week. 

Patients in a hurry will go somewhere else and seek out a provider who is organised enough to understand that we live in a world of urgency and that some people are not prepared to wait. 

Adopting a philosophy of ‘there will be another one along in a minute’ is fine until there isn’t. 

Making hay whilst the sun shines is one thing, but mending the roof in the summer is also an important philosophy to be adopted when things. 


Blog Post Number - 2708 

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Colin Campbell
Written by Colin Campbell
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