New £1m dental lab to halt the exodus abroad

Barry Cockcroft
Barry Cockcroft
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Healthcare entrepreneur Mustafa Mohammed is creating 200 jobs in Yorkshire to help reverse the flow of British dental laboratory work being outsourced to the Far East.

The managing director of Genix Healthcare is investing £1m in a new facility in Leeds to offer manufacturing and training facilities and opportunities for apprentices.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch event, Barry Cockcroft, the chief dental officer, told the Yorkshire Post: “In the last few years there has been a growing trend for dentists to send their laboratory work overseas.

“One of the reasons I’m delighted to be here is to see investment in the home-grown industry, which is fantastic.

“Dentistry is doing well and people value oral health now more than they ever have done.

“It’s a great sign of growing confidence in the dental market in England.”

That combined NHS and private market is worth more than £7bn a year, added Mr Cockcroft, who advises the Government and NHS on dentistry. “It’s big business,” he said.

Mr Mohammed told the Yorkshire Post that the 16,000 sq ft Sparkle dental laboratory is one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

He said: “In the UK, when a patient goes to a dentist and has a crown fitted he does not know where that crown has come from.

“The dentist doesn’t always know where that crown has come from. It will go to a small dental lab and that dental lab may send it off abroad because of cost.”

The 44-year-old businessman, who is wheelchair bound after suffering from polio as a child, owns a national chain of 24 dental practices.

He also owns Genix Pharma, a fast-growing manufacturer of anti-malarial drugs based in Pakistan.

He said his pharmaceuticals company does business with Chinese firms but does not source active ingredients from China because “you cannot guarantee the consistency”.

Mr Mohammed said: “It’s the same problem with the labs which are bringing the work in from abroad.”

He also raised concerns about the falling numbers of dental technicians in the UK. “Ten years ago there were 10,000 or 12,000 technicians. Now there are 5,000 to 6,000 because of work going abroad.

“The work is predominantly going to China, but now it is going to the Philippines as well.

“The person who’s going to become a technician not going to be an accountant, lawyer or professor. It’s going to be someone who’s very good with their hands.

“There are not many jobs available for them in this country.

“That was a big incentive for me – to have a lab in this country where everything is sourced from the UK and everything is manufactured in the UK and to create a training programme to develop these youngsters.”

Mr Mohammed is working with the National Apprenticeship Service to create an apprenticeship programme at the lab.

The lab makes crowns, bridges, dentures and implants. It is next to a FedEx warehouse for distribution.

Mr Mohammed, who lives in Huddersfield, said prices will be as competitive as possible, but not at the expense of his family’s philosophy.

“Anything that’s manufactured here – I would have that put into my own children’s teeth. The material has to be perfect.”

Peter Hodgkinson, dental adviser to the Care Quality Commission, said that lead has been found in crowns made abroad.

“There’s a concern about the quality of work coming out there,” he said.

He contrasted the facilities at Sparkle in Leeds with the large production “sheds” used for dental laboratories in the Far East.

A determination to succeed

MUSTAFA Mohammed was struck with polio as a child.

But his father Chaudhry Mohammad Sharif kept on encouraging his son.

“He wouldn’t let the disability come in front of me,” he said. “He was my energy.”

Mr Mohammed said his father started out as a traffic warden and rose to become one of the most influential men in Pakistan.

Mr Mohammed’s younger brother is a member of the Government’s healthcare committee, he added.

Genix Pharma, which is headquartered in Karachi, manufactures anti-malaria drugs for distribution throughout Asia.