Finest Dental going into liquidation
5 March 2020
The Finest Dental chain of dental practices ceased trading in early February 2020. At present it is understood that their practices are closed leaving patients and the associate dentists and other staff who worked at those practices in an uncertain situation.
For patients affected the company has posted a message with advice on its website. The BDA is not an oral health information service so we are unable to provide guidance for patients on their individual circumstances. We understand that practice facilities are controlled by the owners of Finest Dental and that dentists have been prevented from using these facilities to provide ongoing care to patients. Any solution to this will depend on who is appointed as administrator for the company. In the meantime, any patient in pain or distress can access emergency NHS dental care through their local NHS Area Team or through NHS 111.
Summary of current position for dentists who have been working at Finest Dental
Finest Dental is the trading name of B&A Group group of companies (the main companies we understand are B&A Group, company number 08432871 and B&A Group Franchise Services Limited, company number 12178486 and there are a further 14 subsidiaries, each for a particular practice location). It had planned to place itself into administration but this has been overtaken by events with the main company – the B&A Group – facing compulsory liquidation proceedings in the High Court on 1 April 2020. If this process goes ahead, we understand that an Official Receiver will be appointed by the court to wind-up the company. They will also decide how to deal with the subsidiaries (though for the timebeing these companies are not subject to liquidation proceedings and are still controlled by the former management of B&A Group).
However, we understand that efforts are being made by a potential buyer, Care Clinic Group, to take over the practices and assets of Finest Dental and offer services to Finest Dental's former patients (see below) – if this goes ahead then it is likely that the compulsory liquidation proceedings would be withdrawn.
The insolvency process will probably involve the Official Receiver finding out who all the creditors are (this will include associates and patients who have made payments) and how much each person is owed. They will then collect up or sell all the business's assets and use the funds to pay the creditors. However, with insolvent companies it is likely that there will not be enough money to pay all creditors in full.
Finest Dental's former associates will need to contact the Official Receiver in due course to tell them how much you are owed. Make sure you have copies of your associate contracts and details of your fees earned ready, to give to them. The administrators who were commissioned in mid-February 2020 to deal with the matter (and who were in the process of beginning to contact creditors) no longer have any role in the matter and so you do not need to respond to them.
There is a set order in which creditors are paid, as an associate it is likely that you will be lower down this list as an unsecured creditor. As such it could be that the proportion of what you are owed that you will receive from the administrator could be low. However, discuss your status with the administrator to see whether you could count as a preferential creditor (employees can be preferential creditors but self-employed associates may not be accepted as preferential creditors). If Finest Dental avoids liquidation through the proposed sale of its assets to Care Clinic Group then you would have to pursue any payments owed against Finest Dental.
In terms of incomplete patient treatments that you may have been handling your obligations are to take reasonable steps to ensure that the patients can receive continuing care. At present we understand Finest Dental's practices are closed and so you are prevented from completing treatment – the BDA advises that the company should be responsible for making appropriate arrangements. This situation is beyond the control of individual dentists at Finest Dental and they have acted in good faith and in accordance with their ethical responsibilities.
You should continue to ask Finest Dental what arrangements are being made, pending the liquidation hearing, at each of the practices for completing open courses of treatment and for patients who may be in need of emergency treatment. Ask if the arrangements can be placed on the Finest Dental website and even on the doors of the practice so patients know where they can go for assistance.
In the meantime, should you be contacted by a patient of Finest Dental, explain that the practices have been closed due to factors beyond your control, reassure them that you are seeking urgent answers on how their care can be completed. If any patient is in pain or distress advise them that emergency care to maintain their general oral health can be accessed through local NHS Area Team services and NHS 111 and provide them with contact details. You should also liaise with your indemnity provider so that they are aware of your situation and hopefully assist you during this process.
Care Clinic Group
In early March 2020 it became apparent that there may be a buyer for Finest Dental's assets (though not the companies or trading name). A new company Care Clinic Group has we understand been in negotiation with various parties, including the B&A Group, patient finance providers and the creditor who is pursuing compulsory liquidation to see if an arrangement can be made. If this is successful then some or all of Finest Dental's practices may re-open as new businesses. Whilst this is potentially positive for the provision of ongoing care to patients, any dentist approached to work for the new company should carefully consider: the terms of any contract offered; the robustness of their business plan and financial backing; and the arrangements that would be made for the payment of past earnings.
The BDA is seeking further clarification and we will update you once we have any further details.
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