In February 2022, Invisalign patient Katie-Jayne Flynne arrived for her regular checkup to discover an alarming notice in the Liverpool Street clinic window.
Finest Dental had ceased trading the sign announced, leaving Katie-Jayne in limbo around halfway through her treatment.
Katie-Jayne was one of hundreds of patients to be affected when the well-known London chain went into liquidation in what has been described as the ‘the worst failure of any corporate dental body the UK has ever seen’.
The collapse left associate dentists at nine practices across the UK out of work and many patients out-of-pocket and unable to complete treatment.
This article takes an in-depth look at the dramatic Finest Dental’s dramatic fall from grace and provides advice for professionals and patients who have been affected.
The Finest Dental Chain
Finest Dental was the trading name of a group of dental companies known as B&A Group, also incorporating B&A Group Holdings and B&A Group Franchise Services Ltd.
The British Dental Association says the group also included 14 additional subsidiary companies for nine practices across the UK in:
- London, Liverpool Street
- London, Cannon Street
- Potters Bar
- Milton Keynes
Finest Dental billed itself as ‘one the fastest-growing dental practices in the UK’ where patients could expect first-class general and cosmetic treatments at competitive prices. The group also had a state-of-the-art milling lab.
B&A Group Holdings Ltd reported a £13.1m turnover in the financial year leading to its collapse in 2020 and post-tax profits of £2.4m.
Finest Dental’s Unexpected Collapse
Finest Dental unexpectedly ceased trading in February 2020.
Unfortunately, Katie-Jayne’s story is not unique. Owners were slow to notify patients, leaving many of them to learn of the closure via notices posted in the windows of closed clinics.
Many had already paid for treatment or were making regular monthly payments and were now faced with the prospect of paying out even more with alternative providers.
Finest Dental owners finally addressed the closure on the clinic’s website, telling patients they had worked ‘tirelessly’ to keep the practices open.
“Unfortunatley at this time we are still in the process of agreeing suitable options for patients to continue treatment,” the notice warned.
“We are currently speaking to a selection of other dental operators to negotiate the continuation of patient care as well as approaching existing patient finance providers to request support in opening sites and continue existing patient treatment only.
“We will update the Finest Dental website as soon as a solution is found.”
At Liverpool Street, there was at least a little good news when the landlord took delivery of new braces and aligners, allowing some patients to claim the appliances they had already paid for.
However, patients at Finest Dental’s other eight locations weren’t so lucky.
Further hope briefly emerged in March 2020, with the announcement that a buyer had been found for the beleaguered chain, but this soon fell through.
Michaela Hall of Moore Kingston Smith was appointed liquidator, leaving little hope for further rescue bids.
Finest Dental always maintained that the closure came unexpectedly. However, patients and staff at the practice told various news sources that they believed the chain had been in financial trouble for some time.
Assessing the total value of incomplete treatments owed to Finest Dental patients is challenging. However, the BBC says it spoke to at least 87 patients who had paid a collective £540,344.
Associate dentists and other staff at the chain also reported significant unpaid debts.
What Happens Now?
In the months after the collapse, many of Finest Dental’s creditors issued liquidation proceedings against the business in the High Court.
The court issued winding-up proceedings and appointed a liquidator responsible for creating a comprehensive list of creditors and sums owed.
The liquidator will collect and sell Finest Dental’s assets, using the proceeds to recompense creditors. However, this process is not usually sufficient to cover the cost of all debts in full.
Katie-Jayne Flynn had already paid £2000 towards the cost of Invisalign treatment and was still paying monthly instalments when the clinic folded.
She’s not alone. News reports in the wake of the collapse told the stories of patients like Gareth Pattinson, who was left without teeth after paying Finest Dental £9000 for implants.
But patients weren’t the only group affected.
Reports suggest the group’s Invisalign account had been unpaid since October 2019.
Associate dentists accused Finest Dental of hanging them out to dry, with many left without payment since December 2019, three months before the collapse.
The group’s dental laboratory arm also reported problems with unpaid staff and lab bills, leading to around 900 incomplete orders at closure.
Have You Been Affected? Action for Patients
The General Dental Council (GDC) advised affected patients to seek advice from legal professionals, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
If cancelled treatment has led to pain or distress, patients are advised to seek emergency help from their local NHS team through the NHS 111 service.
The situation for patients like Katie-Jayne and Gareth Pattinson remains uncertain.
While creditors shouldn’t expect to receive full reimbursement from the winding-up process, the liquidator will distribute funds from the sale of Finest Dental Assets equally and fairly among creditors.
If you’re one of them, your first step should be to contact Finest Dental’s liquidators to be added to the company’s list of creditors.
You can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org directly.
You may also be able to claim money back from your bank under consumer protection legislation.
Further information on dealing with insolvent companies can be found on the CAB website.
Consumer Protection—Issuing a Chargeback
If you used a bank transfer or debit card to pay for treatment, you may be able to get a refund by issuing a Chargeback through your bank.
If you’re successful, the bank will simply withdraw funds from Finest Dental’s account to make the refund.
However, it’s worth noting that Chargeback is a voluntary scheme not available at all banks, and there is a high chance that Finest Dental’s liquidation means the company does not have sufficient funds to meet requests.
In addition, Chargeback requests may only be made within 120 days of the initial transaction.
Credit Cards, Finance, and Consumer Protection
There is better news for patients paying for Finest Dental treatments with a credit card or finance agreement, which benefit from enhanced protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
This legislation makes the issuing bank or credit provider liable for any breach of contract for goods or services with more than £100.
And—unlike bank Chargebacks—it’s a clear legal obligation.
If you’ve paid for Finest Dental services with a credit card or finance scheme, contact your provider straight away to make a claim.
Financial Action for Associates—Your Patient Obligations
Finest Dental staff and associates have also been left out of pocket, with many not receiving payment for 2-3 months before closure.
They are also faced with the ethical problem of continuing to provide care.
The British Dental Association (BDA) advises dentists to take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure patients continue providing care. However, it states that the final responsibility lies with Finest Dental.
If you’re contacted by a concerned patient, remind them that Finest Dental has closed due to circumstances outside your control and advise them to seek alternative care from NHS 111 if necessary.
You should also inform your insurance provider of the situation—especially if the DCS or GDC has contacted you about complaints.
Financial Action for Associates
Former associates and clinical staff with unpaid salaries and fees should contact the liquidator at email@example.com to inform them how much you are owed.
You may be required to provide contracts and records of any missed payments.
Following the sale of B&A Group’s assets, the liquidator is responsible for distributing the proceeds to pay creditors in order of priority.
As preferential creditors, contracted employees may receive a greater portion, while unsecured creditors such as self-employed associates may be considered non-preferential. Speak with the liquidator to see if they will accept you as a preferential creditor.
Over to You
With patients, staff and suppliers all affected, the folding of Finest Dental is one of the most significant collapses of corporate dental groups this decade.
It’s still too early to tell how banks, finance providers, regulatory bodies and administrators will respond.
If you’re one of the patients or professionals to lose out, we hope this article has helped and wish you the best of luck in gaining a speedy and satisfactory resolution.