Changing the Profession’s Perception of Dental Groups

Emma Barnes CEO, discusses why Riverdale strives to be different and why it added Devonshire House to its growing list of practices.

We are constantly seeking a differential; why is one product or company better than another, it’s human nature.

It is the same for dental groups. Over the years they’ve received a bad rap, rightly or wrongly, for over promising and under delivering. Riverdale is on a mission to change this perception.

Emotional intelligence

Selling the business you have committed your life to over the years is a hugely emotional experience. Dentistry is a community led industry, one that thrives on supporting the needs of patients and selling your business can feel disloyal. Disloyal to your teams who you nurtured over the years, disloyal to your patients who you have been treating since they were young children and disloyal to your associates who currently work for an independent provider.

At Riverdale, we never underestimate how emotional this decision is. Our role is to support you, your team and associates throughout this journey.

It is daunting becoming part of a bigger business – there is so much to consider.

Some dental groups will immediately implement all of their protocols and procedures and expect your team to adapt. After all, it makes sense to have all the practices doing the same thing. It’s easier for regional managers and head office teams to assess how your practice is performing in line with expectation and ensures the manage, monitor and measure system is working. This works for some, but what if there was another way?

What if you and your practice team were treated as unique individuals, supported and developed to achieve their greater potential? After all, you have been successful so far.

This is something we advocate and are working hard to deliver at Riverdale Healthcare.

Supporting individuals

Our support office focuses on providing real support to our practice teams. We want to see them flourish as individuals so they are happy in their work. Because we know that happy and engaged colleagues will always do their best.

We are also proud of how we have given our associates a voice, creating environments for our clinical teams to flourish. Our operations team is clinically led and responsible for making informed decisions for all our Riverdale team. But the first job is keeping the patients’ needs a number one priority.

Our strategy is to continue to develop our people and practices. This way they are best placed to deliver excellent patient centred care, which, until recently, was geographically focused in the north of England.

Growing together

In April this year, we were hugely excited to welcome the Devonshire House team to our family.

Based in Cambridge, the Devonshire House business has been successfully operating for over 100 years. They have added a new string to our bow, something that will benefit the whole group.

What did we see in Devonshire House? We saw us! A group of likeminded individuals who care passionately about quality dentistry and want to share their experience further.

Formed in 2019, Riverdale is a relative newcomer to the UK dental industry. But our team has a lot of experience. Each member of our management team brings their own key skillset to ensure we are fully supporting the practice teams. We know that together, we are stronger.

Riverdale is on a mission – what’s yours?

If you would like to find out more about Riverdale Healthcare and also if we are a good fit for each other, contact Chris Aylward at


image and article as featured in Dentistry Magazine.

How the COVID pandemic is creating unique opportunities

Whilst the COVID pandemic has massively impacted dentistry, it has also created new opportunities. Ian Gordon, dental director at Riverdale Healthcare, ADG management team member and North Yorkshire LDC chair, discusses how practices can benefit from this unique situation.

The forced closure of dental practices during lockdown 1.0 placed a huge strain on dental practices across the country. Especially purely private and referral practices, which were left to rely for cash flow on any capitation income they might have.

NHS and mixed practices were impacted by loss of private revenue. But they had the comfort of an NHS finance blanket to maintain a sustainable business.

Now we are in a unique situation.

We have an abundance of patients who have at worse been denied access to NHS care. Or have restricted access due initially to the enforced focus on triage and the triple A approach to delivering clinical ‘care’.

Practices are working through backlogs caused by the April to June 2020 closures of all but 600 UDC sites. As well as dealing with the totally excessive fallow time and the restrictive SOP, which significantly reduces patient flow.

As the new financial year opens, practices face a further increase in targets. These are challenging for all when set against the background of an SOP written for the peak of the pandemic and fallow time which seriously reduces efficiency.

Some private practices have increased their prices and added PPE costs to AGP appointments in a bid to gain some financial compensation for the loss they have experienced and the increased time required for each appointment.

How are Riverdale Healthcare managing the balance?

We have a passionate team of clinicians who genuinely seek the best treatment for our patients. And we are eternally grateful for that.

So, when the chief dental officer closed all practices, their first thought was how can we help?

Our group was delighted to be included in the urgent dental centres in north Yorkshire and the north east. Along with practices in other regions.

As a clinical team, we very quickly pooled our talent, fit-tested teams and implemented a protocol to ensure the safety of everyone.

Some of the team diverted from purely private work to become fit testers. Or use their surgical skills to ensure we could cope with anything coming our way at the UDC. Including on more than one occasion completing the task of removing teeth when patients had ‘tried this for themselves’ at home – such was the impact of enforced closure of most practices at this time.

We invested in air filtration systems to provide the greatest level of assurance to everyone. We wanted to ensure a visit to one of our practices was the safest it could possibly be.

Our urgent dental centres saw many patients that had been unregistered for years. It was those who avoid the dentist at all costs until the inevitable toothache begins and we have to perform reactive dentistry.

Whilst their experience was very different to a usual appointment, these patients gained insight as to how the industry has moved forward.

Our clinicians were able to demonstrate their compassion. Our teams offer their professionalism. And most importantly these patients are happy we can see them. They were grateful that someone could help in such extenuating circumstances.

The NHS versus private debate continues

Whilst our NHS lists are full and people are waiting far longer than ever to be seen, we have identified the opportunity to raise the profile of our private dental offering.

We continue to prioritise urgent patients whether previous patients of the practice or not in line with the requirements set out for Q1 and Q2. This does impact our ability to provide treatment for routine NHS patients.

Whether the patient chooses to join a plan or become an independent patient, there is a large number of patients who are happy just to see a dentist.

We have invested heavily in our teams and our practices during the pandemic. It has been costly, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. Supporting our teams, maintaining their NPE income levels and continuing to pay any abatement charged ourselves as a company. Rather than passing this significant cost onto our teams.

We don’t believe in passing these costs to our patients.

The word ‘private’ from a patient perspective implies expensive. So, whilst we seek to make dentistry accessible to everyone, we are careful not to alienate prospective patients with additional fees for equipment that is necessary for us to carry out treatment.

Fair, honest and transparent

We delivered well in excess of the 45% minimum threshold in Q4. We expect to deliver in excess of 60% in this half year. But even these commitments do not meet the demand there is for treatment.

We believe in being fair, honest and transparent with our patients. We do this by simply advising of all options available to them.

There no longer becomes a discussion of NHS versus private. But simply what’s the best treatment for the patient and what we have a contractual and physical capacity to deliver.

Unless we remove fallow time we cannot increase capacity any further. If the country re-opens fully on 21 June, it is imperative that dental practices can individually risk assess their protocols. This way they can expedite a return to a pre COVID level of PPE. We might then start to see access improve.

As a clinician I cannot wait to dispose of a respirator mask for the last time.

Riverdale is on a mission – what’s yours?

Riverdale Healthcare is growing. If you want to find out more about Riverdale Healthcare and if we are a good fit for each other, speak to Chris Aylward in strict confidence,




Nurturing the Next Generation – Progression to Succession

Ben Wild explains why Riverdale Healthcare builds relationships and guides dentists and professionals through their career.

In any industry the succession cycle is a challenge. But at Riverdale Healthcare we believe we have the foundations to provide stability and security for all our colleagues, safeguarding the future success of our business.

From the point of inception, Riverdale Healthcare commits to providing opportunities for everyone. It’s in our DNA.

The first dental group we acquired, Alpha Vitality, successfully embedded a culture of progression, which we continue to nurture.

Ultimately, we want to provide the highest standards of dental care to all patients – in a friendly and professional environment.

To ensure we deliver on this, we are dedicated to making sure that our teams are the best they can be. Providing opportunities for progression, we believe, is paramount to ensuring our teams are motivated and enjoy their work.

Our head of operations began as a trainee dental nurse. As did many of our regional management team.

For us, this level of experience in key roles means they are best placed to make informed decisions. They can have a greater understanding how changes affect every part of the team. And subsequently, successfully manage implementation of change.

In addition, the experience of acquiring the skills needed to develop and progress within the business means that they are also well placed to identify and nurture the potential in those around them.

We work closely with our teams, supporting them through a broad range of training programmes to meet the developing needs of the business.

As a result, many of our staff members benefit from career progression. Either with additional skills that link to their core roles, or role promotion as they progress the career ladder.

Nurturing foundation dentists

On a clinical level, many groups report a shortage of dentists, which can have a massive impact on the business. We are taking the proactive approach used by many premiership football clubs; we are growing our own.

Partnering with foundation training providers, we are nurturing relationships with foundation dentists to develop the lead clinicians of the future.

Assigning mentors, we guide FDs through 12 months in practice, participating in team events, supported in their academic work and guide them through their clinical role.

Foundation training not only provides a unique and stimulating team environment, it also helps to promote best practice. The foundation dentists and their supervisors embrace the latest clinical protocols to enhance patient care. Whilst also involving the whole team around them.

Many of our current clinical team joined as foundation dentists. The legacy of this experience forged many longstanding and valuable professional and personal relationships between team members.

Beyond foundation training, we facilitate opportunities to further develop skills through our own CPD events.

Collaborations with both leading industry speakers and our own home-grown talent provide enhanced clinical training to widen the services they can offer to our patients.

With the opportunities afforded by hybrid teaching models, we offer a broad range of online teaching seminars. As well as F2F one-day and extended practical training programmes at a range of centres close to our practices.

The value of relationships

We recognise that extended practice families make up our group. Each with their own nuances, but all working together to deliver the highest standards of dental care.

We should never underestimate the value of these relationships. None more so than in the past year.

I, myself, as operations director, have strong and enduring relationships with many of our team members. Whether they are clinical directors, dentists, managers or DCPs.

Through these relationships, I was able to see when one person in particular might need support, whether professional or personal.

To this day that culture lives on in the ethos of the practice teams

And that’s what we do. We keep it personal.

People like us, because we are passionate about what we do and we believe in what we do.

That’s why we have a large number of people who have been with us for far longer than many marriages! Some, for their whole working life.

If you’re looking for the secret. There isn’t one.

Just make sure you stay interested in people. Be kind, be supportive but most of all, listen.

Riverdale is on a mission – what’s yours?

Riverdale Healthcare is growing. If you would like to find out more about Riverdale Healthcare and if we are a good fit for each other, speak to Chris Aylward. You can contact him at


Image and article as featured in Dentistry Magazine

Genuinely proud to be part of the team

Chris Aylward explains what sets Riverdale Healthcare apart from other dental groups.

Every group will say they are different to the rest: that they aren’t a typical corporate, that they offer clinical freedom, that they are nicer people to work for. 

And why wouldn’t they? I say exactly the same thing! Each group is focused on growth. To do that, they need to convince you that they are the best option for you.  

So, let’s break this down and talk about Riverdale Healthcare. 

We are not a corporate

The word corporate has a bad press in the dental industry. It’s a negative term that implies a focus on process, protocol and standardisation. Rather than the people and what they can do for the business. For many companies this is inevitable. Once growth becomes significant, having more uniform, aligned groups of practices is much easier to manage. 

At Riverdale Healthcare, we are very clear that we are a group of individual dental practices. Each practice is different, much like extended families; each have their own successes and challenges, each with its own character. 

Our support team recognise the importance of our colleagues in practice, the dedicated professionals who are making it possible for the people in our communities to live life with confident, healthy smiles. The support team focus on how they can make life easier in the practice so the teams can focus on delivering exceptional patient care by tailoring systems to meet the needs of the practice.

We offer clinical freedom

We seek to provide high quality, ethical dental care. Key to this is providing choice to both our patients and clinicians. We believe clinical freedom is not only enabling personal laboratory and material choice but through communication. 

Working together as multi-disciplinary teams, supporting each other, developing skills, mentoring colleagues, cultivating an environment which encourages personal and professional growth. 

Clinical freedom at Riverdale Healthcare is core to our purpose of fostering a happy, ‘can-do’ team that goes above and beyond for each other and our patients.  

We are nice people

I am genuinely proud to be part of Riverdale Healthcare. Everyone who is part of the team has the same passion and commitment for becoming the best independent group we can be. Always with the best interests of our colleagues and patients at the heart of everything we do. 

We work together, in collaboration, to find better ways of doing things. 

Dentistry is a fulfilling and valuable career. It plays a crucial role in a healthy community. 

We understand that without a happy team, we will lose people, waste talent, and underperform. Without gaining our team’s trust, acting responsibly, ethically and caring for our people, we will fail in our mission to serve our patients.

Our teams have fun delivering outstanding care to the people in our community. We want them to enjoy their work and the relationships they build every day. We want them to fulfil their personal aspirations, be developed, rewarded and achieve a genuine work-life balance. 

They’re proud to work in a team that goes above and beyond for each other and our patients, that is respected in the community because of the contribution it makes, and the responsibility it takes to protect the environment and care for its people. 

The decision to sell your practice is probably one of the biggest steps that you will take. Certainly in your professional life. 

You should take it over a period of time once you have gathered all of the information that you need to make that decision. Your head and your heart must agree and then you can feel confident to progress. 

At Riverdale Healthcare, we fully understand this huge step that you are taking. We have the knowledge, expertise and experience gained over many years to help and support you through this. So that the end result is great for both of us.


Image and article as featured in Dentistry Magazine