Sobia Bhatti talks about her move from a first-floor practice to the heart of the local community.
NHS dental practices are often the heart of the local community and nowhere is this more evident than at Bridgton Cross Dental Practice (BCDP) in Glasgow.
The practice has been in the area for decades, but it was only relatively recently that it actually became a part of the community. Sobia Bhatti took over the practice in 2012 and since then has moved the surgery to a new location in the heart of the local shopping area and redesigned the logo to help give BCDP a new, more family-friendly feel.
‘We bought a practice across the road initially. It was one floor up, a two-surgery practice, the people that owned it were retiring,’ Sobia explained. There wasn’t much scope for expanding the practice and it wasn’t very easily accessible for patients with disabilities. ‘A property came up on the market just across the road and so we bought that with the plan to relocate the whole practice.’
Sounds simple, but the move ended up being far more complicated. ‘The new property used to be a bank,’ Sobia explained. ‘Because it used to be a bank, we had a basement that still had the bank’s strong room, like a vault with iron cages and a massive vault door. That was a major issue.’ The builders had to cut the vault door and cages up into smaller bits to get them out of the building because they were too heavy to collect whole. Sobia’s plans were to have the basement as an LDU and drilling pipes through the strong room’s wall was also a huge challenge, ‘it took ages’ Sobia says.
The big move
It took Sobia only two years to realise that a new location for the practice was needed. ‘Finances were already quite stretched after purchasing the first practice,’ Sobia said. But when the new practice location came up it was too good to turn down. It was just across the road so the practice could keep the same patients and there would be minimal hassle when moving.
To save some money Sobia moved the dental chairs from the previous practice into the new one. ‘We moved one chair first, got that working before moving the second. At one point for a day or two we did have both practices running alongside each other. It was stressful.’
To build a great practice you need a great architect and in this case it was A:B Studio Chartered Architects Ltd, along with Lukas Construction Ltd that helped to turn this project into a reality. ‘The architect we’d got to design the practice, we’d heard of them after they had designed a few other places. We went to see those practices and spoke to the practice owners. They’d designed and built one or two smaller practices, but nothing really of this size. But they were pretty amazing throughout the whole process.’
Along with the hardware, Sobia upgraded the software to Systems for Dentists. ‘We’ve added in a computer system to the new practice,’ she says. ‘They were still on the old record cards previously. So, once we relocated here, we added in the computer system.’ Training staff was a big challenge because they had been so used to using the old record cards. But now they’re all up to speed everything is running smoothly. ‘Initially most of the younger staff were very excited but some of the staff who have been here for over 30 years were a bit apprehensive and weren’t sure what to expect. But since we moved they’ve all been really happy.’
Preparing patients for the move was a more straightforward process. Every patient was sent a small business card letting them know about the move. As Sobia still had access to the old place she put a big sign on the door to let patients know they had moved. And with the new practice being so central it was difficult to miss.
Now the project is almost finished, Sobia has a practice aimed at the whole family. There are plenty of Childsmile posters along with tips on how to look after your oral health. The staff are friendly, chatty and eager to help.
‘We kept almost all of the staff that were here originally,’ Sobia says. ‘The receptionist has been here more than 30 years and two of the nurses have been here seven and nine years. There’s an associate dentist, he’s been here several years as well. We’ve now got two more associates and we do have one other dentist who comes in one evening and offers some private treatments.’
There is still one surgery left to equip, but Sobia has already started making plans for the future. ‘The chairs and the equipment we moved across were quite old. So I would like to get new chairs,’ Sobia said. ‘Our main agenda really was to move first and then slowly build up as much as we can. We just felt we couldn’t really expand without moving. Also for people with disabilities, prams, a lot of the patients were older, so the stairs were getting to them.’
So what advice would Sobia give to anybody looking to go through a similar process? ‘Plan that you’re definitely going to go over the budget. Make sure you’ve got money saved up because you will definitely go over. I don’t think I realised how expensive it was. Buying new equipment in dentistry is very expensive compared to other fields. We were lucky we managed to move our chairs, but obviously if you want to buy new chairs, it’s expensive.’