Sentinel Healthcare is the parent company for the private healthcare business and is already an established and highly regarded provider of healthcare services to the NHS. Sentinel Healthcare is a company owned and operated by all of the GPs in Plymouth, West Devon and South Hams.
Over recent years, the removal of lumps and bumps such as moles and cysts has been withdrawn from the NHS due to a lack of funding and with GP practices being under huge pressure.
Lee Grant, Commercial Business Manager for Sentinel Private Healthcare tells us that once these services were cut from the NHS, GPs were coming to them asking for an affordable alternative to the costly private firms also available in the city. “People were left with two choices before Sentinel; to live with their lump and bump or to pay for expensive private treatment to have it removed”.
Sentinel Private Healthcare offer the removal of lumps and bumps at up to half the price of other services.
Based at modern premises with free parking at Plymouth Science Park next door to Derriford Hospital, Sentinel runs clinics managed by GPs who are highly experienced in the treatment of skin conditions and who have the accreditation, the skills and the expertise required for minor surgery.
Looking more closely at the reasons why people may want a mole, cyst or other lesion removed; it doesn’t necessarily have to be because of a health risk. Perhaps a mole gets caught on a clothing strap, or get in the way during day to day activities. Lee tells us that people of all ages and genders are more conscious of their looks than ever before and an unsightly lump may impact them in more ways than one.
So, how does it work? If you have a lump or bump that needs removing then there are two ways you can access the services at Sentinel Private Healthcare. “We often get referrals from GPs in the city and surrounding areas, either by email or letter. GPs can suggest the service as a safe and affordable option for patients”.
You can also refer yourself to Sentinel; through their dedicated telephone booking line on 0333 332 2105 or via email.
“Usually, the patient has visited their GP before being referred to us, so we know that what they want removing is harmless. People can also send us photographs and our doctors will provide an assessment and suggest treatment options.
There is just a 2 week wait for an appointment and patients have their consultation and treatment in one 30 minute appointment.
“If during the course of an examination or procedure our doctor sees something that doesn’t look quite right, then we will refer the patient back to their GP for further testing, or recommend they visit a consultant for a formal diagnosis”.
The procedure itself is performed at a number of weekly clinics and patients can book an appointment up to three months in advance at a time convenient to them. Lee explains that because the procedures are minor, they are completed in a 30 minute time slot.
“Our qualified and experienced GPs will talk you through the entire process. After this, a local anaesthetic will be administered via a small injection”. Lee explains that the actual removal of the lesion often the quickest part of the process, and is pain free.
Any stitches will be taken out at your local GP practice, and Sentinel will inform them of your procedure. “We do this so the patient can attend somewhere local and saves them from unnecessary travel”.
Cost depends on the treatment undertaken; for example, a lipoma, cyst or mole removal is just £469 with the mole sample being sent to the Derriford lab for checking. Test results are sent to the patient’s GP and the Sentinel GP. Toe nail removals are just £219 with skin tags at £179 for up to 20 removals and warts removed for £149.
It is also important to note that, even though Sentinel only deal with harmless lumps and bumps, every mole they remove is sent to the Histology laboratory at Derriford Hospital for examination as a precaution.
Sentinel also offer a no obligation lump and bump check for just £35. Lee tells us that about 50% of the people they see decide to go for further treatment but the consultation is there for peace of mind and reassurance above all else.
Sentinel is a not for profit organisation, meaning that a proportion of surplus funds will be invested back into local patient services.
Sentinel Private Healthcare has been offering removal of lumps and bumps in Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon since September 2016. We ask Lee, who has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Business Development, what it was like to start this up.
“My expertise is in business development and operational management. I have previously worked in the NHS as a senior operations manager, as a procurement lead as well as managing media relations and communications. I was also a Business Development Director for the out of hours GP service, Devon Doctors”. Lee is also a qualified motorcycle instructor with his own thriving business known as The Bike Coach.
“It was hard to begin with starting the private healthcare business, as I knew it would be as it is a very regulated area of business and rightly so. I started it from scratch; I had to source the healthcare professionals, the location; set up the call handling function so we had a booking service and advice line. Then there was the IT as well as the PR and marketing – we did it all in 4 months before we went live in September 2016”.
Lee tells us that the biggest headache for him at the time was having a limited advertising budget. “It was very hard starting up a new business, but being unable to let people know you’re out there!”
In the first month, we had three patients. Since then it’s grown to the point where we are seeing around 35 patients each month – and growth is still upward.
“Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this job is the positive feedback we receive” says Lee. Sentinel treats early teens upwards with oldest patient to date being in her 80s. “Some young people may have trouble at school due to something that’s visible; whether it is on their face or hands. Because of this their studies and self esteem may suffer and we can usually offer a quick solution to remove the lesion and the social problems that come with it”.
Lee tells us that every patient is asked to fill out a confidential feedback form after their treatment, and the best thing is reading positive stories of how a simple procedure has changed a young person’s outlook on life. “It is so much more than minor surgery. People think it’s a simple skin lesion but the knock on benefits and effects of that can be huge. I enjoy reading positive feedback forms- it’s really pleasing!”
Lee explains it is not Sentinel’s intention to take minor surgery away from GP practices that wish to still offer it.
“We are mindful that a few surgeries want to continue to offer minor operations and that is great – what we offer is a sensibly priced, safe service for patients who want a choice or who cannot have their operation through their own practice. 98% of patients in their feedback form said they would recommend us to a friend or family member”.
We finish by asking Lee where he would like to see the business in the future. “5 years from now, I would like to see the business expand its minor surgery offer into areas such as joint injections or carpal tunnel procedures. Another area I would like to see added is in specialist mental health.
The NHS is poorly resourced in this area and has been for years. People are starting to realise that mental health is just as important as physical health, so it would be great to create another specialist service for Sentinel that offers something in this much needed area.
Finally, in terms of geography, we already have patients travelling to us from across Devon and Cornwall and I would want to promote the service more in those locations as well as possibly holding the clinics in other areas”.