The success story of Ghyllmount Dental

on 22nd August 2018

Ghyllmount Dental is no stranger to winning awards – in and out of dentistry! Here, practice principal John Lewis shares the story behind the practice’s success

Ghyllmount Dental won the title of Champion of Prevention 2017 at our inaugural Oral Health Awards last year, taking home the award for Best New Patient Campaign and highly commended for numerous others.

Situated in the market town of Penrith in Cumbria, Ghyllmount Dental is a five-surgery practice that has been steadily earning accolades and building an enviable reputation over recent years.

It was back in 2009 that practice principal John Lewis decided to relocate and rebrand the practice to Ghyllmount Dental. In the lead up to this, John and the team gave lots of consideration to not only the practice and its design but also to its patients. ‘We wanted a practice that didn’t look and smell like a dental practice,’ says John. The result is a design that feels more like a boutique hotel than a dental practice.

To achieve its goal of meeting and exceeding the expectations of every patient, Ghyllmount Dental’s team compromises eight dentists, two therapists, one hygienist, and seven nurses.

The clinical team is supported by four administration and reception staff, as well as both a practice manager and a business manager.

On top of the high quality general dentistry you would expect from a private practice, Ghyllmount Dental has a consultant orthodontist, and dentists with special interests in implants, sedation and treatment of dental phobics, periodontal care, full mouth rehabilitation, and endodontics.

‘We aim to deliver the highest standard of clinical dentistry and customer care that is second to none,’ says John.

The practice’s prevention team offers a full range of hygiene and therapy services with exceptional care taken to ensure that its child patients (all seen within the NHS) move forward into adulthood understanding the importance of good oral hygiene.

By creating a one-stop dental and healthcare shop, they have been able to bring the services to the patients.

The practice has created a one-stop dental and healthcare shop by also having self-employed staff who can offer a range of cosmetic treatments including facial aesthetics, laser hair removal, permanent cosmetics and beauty treatments.

Marketing success

As a practice, Ghyllmount Dental works exceptionally hard to market itself. Thanks to methods including social media, newsletters and radio slots, the practice’s patient numbers are at an all-time high and continue to grow month on month.

‘Without a doubt, the most successful marketing campaign we have run is the “try before you buy” offer,’ reports John. For this campaign, people are given the opportunity to have a ‘no-pressure’ appointment, which includes a free examination with John. This enables potential patients to see if they like the practice before committing.

It is through initiatives such as this, as well as Ghyllmount Dental’s friendly, caring, fun-loving and approachable team, that the practice manages to make – and keep – so many patients.

‘I believe our excellent retention record is because of the first-class customer service we offer to our patients. We all understand that some patients only visit us once per year and so we only have one shot at getting it right for them,’ says John.

The new patient questionnaire includes questions such as where they heard about Ghyllmount Dental, what attracted them to the practice and why they left their last dentist, which allows the team to see what marketing is working (and what isn’t).

Incidentally, the practice also repeats the process when patients leave, asking why they have left and where they have gone.

Winning streak

Ghyllmount Dental has previously entered – and won – other awards, so John fully appreciates the positive impact it can have on staff morale and patient recruitment.

He elaborates: ‘It also gives our existing patients reassurance that we are continuing to work hard at developing the practice and can compete with any other practice nationally.’

As a practice, oral health and prevention is very important, so entering the Oral Health Awards was a natural choice.

‘The Oral Health Awards appealed to us because we could relate to the categories and criteria for each one,’ says John. ‘We felt confident in our team and services and so thought it was worth a shot!’

However, winning still came as a shock at the event. John continues: ‘We couldn’t quite believe it! We were invited up on stage five times to collect awards’.

‘We do have to pinch ourselves! It is difficult to grasp when we are from a small market town in Cumbria competing with amazing practices from all over the UK. It really does give us all a real boost and burst of pride in all we have achieved.’

The Ghyllmount Dental team was still revelling from the other wins when its name was announced as the winner of the Champion of Prevention 2017 award. John says: ‘It was amazing! It just seemed incredible that we had won. We are immensely proud of winning this title, as we work tirelessly to promote and educate our patients and community on the merits of prevention and sound oral health.’

However, it’s not just in the dental world that Ghyllmount Dental is an award-winner. Ghyllmount marmalade made headlines when it won bronze at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards.

‘We couldn’t believe it when our marmalade won! It was our business manager Karon who took up the challenge as it was in aid of our local hospice, but really full credit must go to her husband Sean who made the winning batch,’ John reveals.

‘Following that, other members of the team got involved making it too. We went on to sell it at the practice to raise further funds for the hospice.’

Highly commended hat-trick

In addition to winning Best New Patient Campaign, Ghyllmount Dental received lots of praise from the judges for its Best Children’s Care, Best Community Initiative and Best Therapist entries.

It was the culmination of all these entries that earned Ghyllmount Dental the title of Champion of Prevention 2017.

John says: ‘We were, of course, delighted to win the Champion of Prevention award, but we were also delighted to be acknowledged for the
others. In particular Linda’s award for Best Therapist, as well as Best Children’s Care, and Best Community Initiative. These areas of our work are so very important to us and are what makes Ghyllmount Dental the success it is today.’

Best Children’s Care

Ghyllmount Dental prides itself on the services offered to its child patients. Indeed, children are made to feel like an important part of the Ghyllmount family.

As well as excellent clinical care, Ghyllmount Dental has a dedicated child patient lounge and kids’ club, runs regular child-friendly competitions and offers work experience placements.

‘Our priority is to engage with the children, and ensure that their visit is a relaxed and fun experience,’ says John.

The team at Ghyllmount Dental has seen first-hand the poor state of dental health of the children of Penrith, which has resulted in ‘deprived area’ status. To address this, the practice has a dedicated prevention team, made up of two therapists, one hygienist and seven dental nurses. This has meant that all the children seen within the NHS at the practice are offered the Ghyllmount prevention plan, which includes out-of-school hours appointment times especially reserved for children, toothbrushing instruction, dietary advice and a children’s club with personalised newsletters.

‘We encourage new parents to register their children immediately and to start bringing them along from birth,’ says John. ‘It has been so rewarding over the years to see the next generation growing and bringing their children too.’

It’s not only younger children who get special treatment. Local teenagers with have an interest in moving into dentistry as a career are encouraged to apply for the Ghyllmount Academy – a structured learning programme that gives students the opportunity to come in and observe a range of surgical procedures during school holidays.

‘Ghyllmount Academy provides all the work experience necessary to support their application to dental school,’ says John. ‘They will be invited to relevant study groups, to allow them to build up their portfolio for university applications. We help with their university application and personal statements and with the interview process too.’

John and the team also strive to involve their own children in social activities where possible.

The practice holds its own event – GHYLL-FEST – where all the staff and their families get together for a camping and festival style extravaganza. This involves a live band, food, duck race and It’s a knockout-style fun and games.

‘One way or another, children are often at the centre of all we do,’ says John.

Best Community Initiative

The practice’s strong community roots run deep.

‘Our local community is extremely important to us and we actively engage with it to reduce dental health inequalities,’ says John.

The practice is continually trying to find new ways to connect with its local community.

This has resulted in the practice supporting medically-retired Royal Marines, by providing free basic dental care for life. The entire team is also now fully trained ‘Dementia Friends’ and members of the local Dementia Action Alliance.

‘Our main aim is to address the increasingly critical problem of getting people to show an interest in looking after their oral health. As dental professionals we sometimes are under the illusion that people have the same interest in teeth as we do. Often we are wrong,’ says John.

‘People have so much going on in their lives that oral health slips to the bottom of the list of priorities. At Ghyllmount, we feel it’s our duty to try and ignite people’s interest.’

As a result, Ghyllmount Dental’s community events – which happen both in and out of the practice – vary in mood; some light-hearted and fun for the children and others more serious affairs, addressing cancer and dementia groups.

Best Therapist

Despite the ‘whole team’ approach to prevention on show at Ghyllmount Dental, there is still room for individuals to shine.

Linda Holmes was highly commended in the category of Best Therapist at the awards, and it’s not hard to see why the judges couldn’t let her walk away empty handed. Throughout the award entry, Linda is described as the jewel in Ghyllmount Dental’s crown, and John is quick to explain why that is.

‘Ghyllmount Dental would not be the place it is today without Linda. It is as simple as that,’ he says. ‘Her staunch views about gold standard care and her strong ethics are admirable. She has worked hard with us at the practice to build its prevention suite and a reputation that is second to none in our area.’

Since joining the practice in 2008, Linda has transformed the standard of patient care offered by the practice beyond recognition.

‘She is often the bridge between patient and dentist,’ says John. ‘Patients can speak with Linda easily, when sometimes they don’t feel as comfortable when speaking with the dentist.’

Not only this, Linda brings a realistic and sensible approach to problems and issues, making her the lynchpin connecting staff and management.

Linda has developed many initiatives to help spread the word of good oral health, including a ‘preventive programme’, which focuses on intervention.

At the same time, she has developed individually tailored care for each and every child, not forgetting that the key to success is making a visit to the dentist fun.

‘We are so very proud to be associated with Linda and all that she does,’ says John.

‘It sounds very dramatic, but Linda provides treatment that changes people’s lives. In a lot of cases, she is the difference between people attending the dentist and not.’

Up next

Ghyllmount Dental will be taking some well-deserved time out from the awards circuit this year to focus on what more it can do to help others.

‘We believe that we could all do more to make life a little easier for those who have a disability/illness or who are perhaps older and less mobile,’ says John.

‘We want to understand and learn about how we can help people in our community. These people deserve and need special consideration. This will be our next focus’.

What better way to honour the Champion of Prevention title?

For more information and to enter the Oral Health Awards, visit here.

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