Developing Services in the Private Sector as a Psychologist
Being Director and Co-Director of two independent psychological practices, I wanted to share a little about my journey so far. In the current climate of burgeoning pressures on NHS staff, growing waiting lists and the drive to "do more with less" that defines the period of austerity we are all facing, it seems opportune to say there is another way. My systemic training has helped me arrive at the view that multiple perspectives and multi-modal solutions are better than singular truths or ways of working - hence, I am not at all averse to the idea of private-public partnerships, and the need for NHS services to work alongside a range of independent providers. I feel this can indeed improve standards, and offer the public the choices they so often demand. I have always promoted the possibility of concessions for those who cannot easily afford independent or private healthcare services, and like to involve practitioners who are of a like mind.
Qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist in 1998, I decided that I'd look at 5yrs in full time NHS work before even thinking about private work. I didn't feel it was morally right to step away from NHS services any sooner, given I'd been salaried through public taxes for 3 years of post-graduate training, and of course through the privilege of having my tuition fees paid for in the years earlier. I also felt that to be an independent consultant, I should develop the requisite experience and skills to be effective. Even then, it was a slow transition - I started working privately on alternate Saturdays, whilst retaining a full time career in the NHS. Year by year, I picked up an extra day of independent practice, gradually freeing myself up from the NHS role (not altogether, I hasten to add!).
In 2005, I'd set up my first company - Clinical Psychology Direct. I was a sole trader, but in great demand travelling for court related work to parts of Wales, London, the Midlands, Oxfordshire and the North West. I was also picking up health insurance work, offering therapy primarily to adults suffering with anxiety and depressive disorders, together with some couple and family based work. I was supported greatly in this period by Giles Bellamy, a Psychologist who ran services at the beautiful setting once known as Tranquil House near the Lickey Hills. For a time, I also worked with Gile's successor, in the form of Phoenix Psychological Services, which gave me some scope to offer employee therapy programmes (primarily medics in training who were having psychological difficulties) and also some school based counselling. It was a liberating feeling not being constrained by the tight resources, long waiting lists and ever growing paperwork demands of traditional NHS services. I could see people quickly, at a time that suited them and myself and we could move efficiently to better emotional health and well being. The setting was also more in keeping with what I would like my clients to experience - cared for, tidy and nurturing.
The financial rewards were also welcome. As my earning power went up, I was able to support a comfortable lifestyle for my own family, whilst also being able to have greater flexibility in my working day and week. I may have lost some of the security that came with greater contributions to my NHS pension, and also the leave and sickness benefits that come with a salaried role. But I had the best of both worlds - I still had paid leave, even if it was downgraded on a pro-rata basis. I could still benefit from whatever little CPD (Continuing Professional Development) opportunities the NHS afforded, and I had the professional network around me in my now part-time NHS role, which so many practitioners who work exclusively in the NHS learn to miss.
Perhaps due to my cautious, risk-averse nature, I didn't take the next bold step until 2016! Whilst in the 11 years prior, I had grown my private practice and developed both my reputation and expertise, I was missing the next challenge. For several years I'd been contemplating owning my own premises, and developing a hub for psychology, counselling and holistic therapies. Not only would it give me a greater presence in the marketplace and bypass the silly prices I was paying to hire rooms, I'd also be able to develop services, bid for new contracts, and bring together a range of treatment offers to address the "whole person" - emotionally, physically, socially, occupationally and yes, spiritually. It was clear to me that positive mental health depends on all these factors of being, and stand-alone services simply can't offer everything people often need.
In Dec 2016, I moved services to my own base - Solihull Well Being Clinic. Working in partnership with my wife, Menka (a Psychotherapist in her own right) we made some sacrifices, borrowed some money and remortgaged one of the buy-to-let properties we'd managed to acquire. It had taken many months to refurbish the building, and at significant cost (both in terms of my own sanity, given the rather unhelpful builders we'd got stuck with, and in terms of time away from family and personal life). But...I can safely say it was worth it! Within a few months we have managed to recruit a thriving band of practitioners - psychotherapists, counsellors, hypnotherapists, life coaches, CBT therapists of course; but also reiki and energy healers, chinese medicine and cupping therapists. We have an acupuncturist and dietitian, who work alongside medics offering weight loss clinics. The mindfulness, yoga and meditation trainers we have, offer something that elevates us above the difficulties we experience in the material world. Recently, we have taken on board doctors who offer non-surgical anti-ageing treatments, as part of an ethical and well assessed process to determine need. We are shortly looking to recruit a reflexologist and physiotherapist, whilst also having launched a schools based counselling service.
This new approach has been nothing short of transformative for me, and for many of my clients. Attending an appointment to see one practitioner, there are a range of options available when they transition from the work that has been contracted with their clinician/therapist. This provides complimentary networks, and treatment options that sustain and extend the changes the client wishes to see. It is also a great networking and peer-support forum for the practitioners, who no longer feel isolated. Together, we have been running marketing campaigns, workshops and taster sessions in some very special places - at the Tree of Life Festival, Holistic Fayres, Touchwood Shopping Centre and of course at our own premises. We have featured in the Solihull Observer and Solihull Living Magazine, such that we are getting very well known.
Our work continues, together with our aim to offer a truly holistic, whole-person approach to well being. I would encourage anyone who is tempted by private and independent practice to take the next step, and thereby expand the options that are available to them at a time where roles are being squeezed in public and statutory organisations. I am happy to assist, and have conversations with you, based on what I have learned in the years that have gone by.
Dr Bobby Sura BSc Hons, PG Dip, DClinPsy, CPsychol
Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist
Dr Bobby Sura is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist specialising within the field of lifespan and family based mental health needs. He works both in the public (NHS) and private sector, being the proprietor of Clinical Psychology Direct and Partner for Solihull Well Being Clinic. Dr Sura is Chartered with the British Psychological Society (BPS), Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP), Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) with eligibility for registration with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and
Association of Family Therapy (AFT).