“Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’, I dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’”
Words to live by, as said by Dr. Ashkan Pitchforth, CEO of South Cliff Dental Group, who does not conform to what is standard or routine. Once a project is completed, it is forgotten, and he focuses on the future and the next idea. He is a visionary and a thinker; and has a team who he has taught to implement his ideas.
Dr. Ashkan is the owner and CEO of South Cliff Dental Group, which, as of September 2022, has 23 practices across the South of England. He has managed to grow this group from one practice in Handcross, purchased in 2015, with a turnover of £450,000 per annum, to 23 practices with over 300 employees and clinicians, with a turnover of more than £ 15 million per annum. This was achieved through hard work and no business training or qualifications. A considerable achievement within this growth expansion has involved winning 6 tender procurement processes; and buying 4 failing dental practices from Colosseum Dental, saving them from being closed down, which would have had a substantially detrimental effect on patient care in those areas. Additionally, in December 2020, the group was ranked number 33 in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100, Britain’s Private Companies with the Fastest Growing Sales.
“All our associates are encouraged to progress in their careers whether this is via the clinical dentistry route (enhancing their clinical skills) or via business development for them to look to purchase or set up their own practice,” says Dr. Ashkan. Many associates whom Dr. Ashkan has nurtured over the years have gone on to have their practice and establish themselves in business. Additionally, he provides advise, encouragement and focus to those who approach him for business advice and his opinion. “You do not build businesses, you nurture and build people, and they will build the business. By doing this, you need not to be afraid of dismissing people who do not fit into the role, but most leaders are scared of doing this and will try to train bad habits out of people,” explains Dr. Ashkan. “My view; if they do not fit, they will never fit. Leadership involves creating passion and drive within your company.”
It is pertinent to mention that Dr. Ashkan is also a 50% shareholder and co-principal at the Family Dental Centre, Crawley, which provides NHS and private dental services to the residents of Crawley, West Sussex. This brings additional pressure due to the practice’s largest NHS contract in the South of England. Since April 2013, Dr. Ashkan has been an Executive Member of the West Sussex Local Dental Committee, which strives to represent dentists locally and nationally. In this role, he represented West Sussex Practitioners at the Dental Contracts and Quality Assurance Panel meetings (South East) for 3 years and never missed a meeting. He stood to ensure providers were treated relatively by NHS England and fought for their requests from NHS England.
Furthermore, Dr. Ashkan supported a practitioner in West Sussex who became gravely unwell and needed to be sectioned. He supported her and ensured she managed to be housed; protected her NHS contract from being terminated so this could be sold; and ensured she received her NHS sick pay. Similarly, Dr. Ashkan has also mentored and supported practitioners who have been referred to the GDC. This has allowed practitioners to keep working with patients whilst their case is awaiting to be heard or their conditions honoured. At the 2018 LDC Conference in Ireland, he presented the motion for the government to ease the burden of practice management by covering the costs of regulatory bodies.
For 3 years, from September 2017 to September 2020, Ashkan worked as a Clinical Advisor for both the Contracts and Performance Teams for NHS England (South East). This involved reviewing complaints, record card reviews; NHS dental practice inspections; advising on practice-based policies, and interviewing dental practitioners. Dr. Ashkan sat on both PAG and PLDP panels and ensured support was there for practitioners. During this time, he lectured on NHS Rules and Regulations across the South to teach younger dentists and those inexperienced with the claiming rules and specific stipulations when working in the NHS sector. Furthermore, he triaged Endodontic NHS Referrals from practitioners in West Sussex wishing their patients to gain access to Tier 2 and 3 Endodontics.
Dr. Ashkan has helped support the local community by donating to charities, such as the Hastings Local Food Bank, and allowing work experience students to get a taste for the field of dentistry at a young age. In April 2020, he was nominated for the Men for Gender Balance Award by We Are the City, Supporting the Female Pipeline. This nomination was for promoting women in the workplace. He has maintained NHS clinical dentistry for 10 years (2009-2019) but, during this time, undertook many roles outside of the clinical dentistry role, going beyond the regular duty for his colleagues and patients.
Armed with his immense experience, Dr. Ashkan is leading South Cliff Dental Group to new heights. “We offer the whole spectra of dental treatments including implants, endodontics, periodontics and sedation,” he adds. “All our processes in our business are now being moved towards automation, allowing our staff to focus on larger projects. This will enable the organisation to become more efficient.” Moreover, in 2022, South Cliff Dental Group started building its brand new Head Office in Crawley (neat Gatwick Airport). This will house a state-of-the-art training facility and conference rooms to provide lecturers and training to their cohort of staff, as well as open their doors and provide this to those not part of the organisation.
One of the most significant achievements for South Cliff Dental Group has been winning in total 6 procurement tender processes in the NHS which allowed for 6 brand new NHS dental practices to be opened. “This was done within 1 year (2019-2020) which is unheard of all through sheer dedication and hard work,” elucidates Dr. Ashkan. “Currently we are building a new NHS dental practice (8 surgery practice) in Minster, Kent, and this will be one of the largest NHS dental practices in the whole of Kent. And we plan on providing the best of services to our patients through our dedication.”