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Dental Practices

With ever growing recruitment difficulties and ongoing regulatory and business demands, Scottish dental practices are facing a range of legal and business challenges.

Whether you are a sole practitioner or a corporate operator with multiple practices, the legal issues you will encounter on a daily basis remain largely the same and can range from buying or selling a practice, recruiting foreign dentists from abroad and associate agreements (particularly in the context of IR35) to general employment issues, disciplinary processes and property requirements. You therefore need a legal firm that understands your sector and its pressures and can provide you with practical and implementable solutions on all fronts.

At Thorntons, we have one of the largest dedicated dental legal teams in Scotland and have a proven track record in the Scottish dental market. Our Dental team are experienced, approachable and pragmatic, and work closely with clients and other intermediaries in the sector (such as sales agents, banks and accountants) in order to deliver a flexible service that is tailored to the individual needs and requirements of each specific client – and all with fee transparency. 

We regularly attend and present at dental events and exhibitions across Scotland and regularly host seminars for dentists on key legal issues affecting their practice. Our extensive experience in the sector means that whatever issue you are dealing with, we have most likely dealt with it before - so we can offer quick and practical advice, saving you time and money. Our years of experience have allowed us to build up an extensive range of contacts, including specialist dental accountants, the healthcare teams within the majority of high street banks, dental practice valuers and sales agents, which means we are well placed  to point you in the right direction should you require other specialist advice for your practice.

We understand that our dental clients are busy, dedicated professionals so we are happy to offer a flexible approach to our advice and discussions with you, with out of hours, weekend and virtual appointments available on request.

Whether you are looking to buy a new dental practice, expand your current operations through acquisitions or mergers, defend an employment tribunal claim, update your employment contracts and/or associate agreements or retire and sell your dental practice, our dedicated Dental team are on hand to help.

How can Thorntons help?

Our specialist Dental Team can provide advice and support on a wide number of legal issues, including the following.

Buying a dental practice is a complex process and as a result, issues can arise that can delay the deal going through or even prevent it. From finding finance and dealing with different Health Board requirements to carrying out accounting and legal due diligence, taking professional advice as early in the process as possible enables you to identify any potential issues at the outset of the transaction and deal with these in order to minimise any delays. Our Dental Team have years of experience in advising both first time buyers and group operators on dental practice acquisitions and so have a solid understanding of the key areas of risk in the sector and our bespoke dental due diligence questionnaire reflects this.  

Selling a dental practice can be a daunting prospect and after spending years building your practice up, you want to ensure that you maximise your return.  You therefore want lawyers who understand the reality behind the numbers and who can help you to navigate the sale process as effectively and efficiently as possible.  With years of experience of selling dental practices, our Dental Team are well placed to offer advice and assistance on all stages of the sale process, from responding to a due diligence request, through to disclosure and eventual completion.  

Dental practices in Scotland are governed by the General Dental Council and need to comply with various NHS regulations.  The regulatory demands can be complex; however, our cross-disciplinary Dental Team can provide advice and support for dentists on various regulatory matters, including grant funding applications and compliance, practice inspections, and representation for those involved in a General Dental Council (GDC) complaints process or Fitness to Practice hearing.

From advice on compliant employment contracts, to effective staff management policies and GDPR support, our dedicated Dental Team can advise on a range of employment law matters. This can include advice and representation, if you are dealing with employment claims or tribunals, as well as providing training on legal changes or specific employment issues affecting dental practices.  

With effect from 6 April 2023, HMRC has withdrawn the informal agreement that was previously in place that associate dentists could be treated as self-employed. The effect of this will be that the employment status of each associate dentist will be based on the usual case law for deciding whether someone is employed or self-employed. If HMRC decides to challenge the classification of the associate dentist on the basis that they believe them to be employed and not self-employed, then they will approach the dental practice owner as the deemed employer. If HMRC is successful, then the dental practice owner will become liable for the income tax and national insurance contribution (NIC) payments of all their associate dentists.

The specialist Dental Team at Thorntons can review existing associate agreements and suggest revisals to these in order to minimise or reduce the potential for an HMRC challenge.

The recruitment of suitably trained dentists is an ongoing challenge for many dental practices. If you are considering recruiting foreign dentists for your practice, you need to ensure you meet all immigration and visa requirements in connection with this. Our Dental Team includes immigration law specialists, who can advise you on all aspects of sponsoring and employing foreign nationals and help you through the complex UK Visa and Immigration application process.

If you own a dental practice, it is important to consider your tax position and undertake some effective estate planning looking ahead. Tax is a complicated and constantly- evolving area, so getting specialist advice is key to ensure that you are fully protecting your assets and claiming the exemptions you are entitled to.

At Thorntons. we regularly advise dentists on Inheritance tax, asset protection, and effective estate planning, in order to ensure that your business and personal matters go hand in hand.

Buying or selling commercial property is significantly different from domestic conveyancing and whether you are buying or selling a practice property, or looking to enter into a lease with a third party, our Dental Team can provide the specialist property advice required to help you navigate any issues that can arise.