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LONDON, UK: In worrying news outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been reported that a number of dental practices in the UK operating under the Finest Dental brand have recently stopped trading with immediate effect. The closure has left thousands of patients in the dark about whether scheduled treatments and procedures will go ahead—many of which were paid for in advance.
Finest Dental, which had nine associated dental branches across the UK, was the trading name of B&A Group. In early February 2020, the company abruptly closed all of its practices without warning, leaving many patients and dental professionals in an uncertain situation regarding their dental treatments and employment status, respectively.
According to the British Dental Association (BDA), B&A Group had planned to go into administration, but will now be facing compulsory liquidation proceedings in the UK’s High Court on 1 April 2020. However, a company called the Care Clinic Group, which was only incorporated on 27 December 2019, has since announced that it is “finalising an arrangement with [B&A Group] to acquire the assets and some sites” associated with the Finest Dental brand. The group encourages former Finest Dental patients to fill out a contact form on its website so that an appointment can be scheduled. Though it sounds like a solution may have been found, the negative experiences of many of those involved has highlighted the debris B&A Group has left in its wake.
Dentists and patients yet to be persuaded
On the Finest Dental website, there is currently a message advising patients with outstanding scheduled treatments to contact the Care Clinic Group. “The current situation regarding Finest Dental is both heartbreaking and deeply regrettable,” the message reads.
“The circumstances that led to the demise took place totally unexpectedly and were out of the control of the management team; realising the need to attend to the patients, we have worked tirelessly over the last month in order to find a solution to continue the care for our patients,” it continues.
However, Finest Dental patients and even former employees have publicly challenged this interpretation of events. “In my opinion, it is absolutely unprecedented,” Dr Charles Lister, a dentist who previously worked at a Finest Dental branch, told Channel 5 News. “It is just a catastrophic fail of a massive provider in a high-end financial area of the market.”
A Facebook group set up by several disgruntled patients in the wake of the company’s collapse has already attracted over 1,100 members, and countless posts describe situations in which individuals paid substantial sums of money to their local Finest Dental branch for treatment, yet their treatment remained incomplete—or was not even undertaken in the first place.
“It is just a catastrophic fail of a massive provider in a high-end financial area of the market” - Dr Charles Lister
Testimony from several patients, with whom Dental Tribune International has been in contact over the past week, has also painted Finest Dental’s actions in a negative light. Tom Giembicki, a cyber security expert based in London, detailed how he visited the Canon Street Finest Dental branch in December 2019 to discuss an extensive implant treatment plan that would be executed over the coming months. There, he was informed that, if he paid for the treatment up front, a 10% discount would be applied and the total cost would be reduced to £15,495.
“Some time in January, I received a phone call from SAF Medical [an anaesthesia specialist company] informing me that the treatment I had paid for might not go ahead as they themselves had not been able to contact anyone from Finest Dental,” Giembicki said.
Though Finest Dental employees reassured him that SAF Medical’s concerns were unfounded, Giembicki’s treatment never even began—and he hasn’t yet recovered his money.
“I have made numerous phone calls to Finest Dental and also sent multiple emails demanding for the funds to be transferred back into my account, but have received no response or any feedback,” he added.
A painful process
Shortly after he turned 50, Robert Briggs was diagnosed with bladder cancer, a condition that he is still battling to this day. He has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy, which, combined with the prolonged use of certain medications, has led to decay in his lower jaw bone and associated gingival and tooth issues.
In July 2019, Briggs commenced treatment for a full set of implant-retained dentures at the Finest Dental Winchester branch. Though the procedure started off on the right path, a series of follow-up appointments were cancelled by the branch, according to Briggs, culminating in his final denture fitting being postponed three times in the month of December alone.
“I finally had an appointment on 13 February for my final fitting, but I arrived that day to find the surgery had closed,” said Briggs. He stated that he had paid an initial upfront sum of £10,000 only to be left with a set of temporary dentures, and he has been told by his new dental practice that the completion of his treatment will cost at least another £5,000.
“The loss of jaw bone and teeth changed my appearance and affected my speech. Having cosmetic dental treatment was critical for me,” Briggs commented. “I was so close to Finest Dental being my saviours and giving me my smile and confidence back.”
What can patients do?
As previously mentioned, patients who were with Finest Dental are advised by the company to contact the Care Clinic Group for a consultation. Many of those who have filled out the requisite contact form, though, are yet to be contacted, and the company is yet to respond to a request for comment from Dental Tribune International. Emails and calls to several of the B&A Group’s directors for further clarity on the issue have likewise gone unanswered.
The BDA has advised that patients of Finest Dental who require emergency oral healthcare can access this through their local NHS area team or by contacting NHS 111. Since the proposed sale of Finest Dental to the Care Clinic Group has not yet been completed, the procedure for obtaining refunds for dental treatments that were paid for but not delivered is, unfortunately, not yet clear.