BDA urges FCA to consider dentists in business interruption test case

The British Dental Association (BDA) has urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider the plight of dentists in its legal process to assess the validity of business interruption insurance policies.

As limited face-to-face dental care resumes in England, the BDA, which represents dental practices across the country, has made a formal request to the FCA to give specific consideration to the unique challenges facing the sector before the regulator takes forward its test case on insurers’ non-payment of business interruption claims. 

The FCA stated on 15 April that most policies with basic cover would not cover coronavirus (Covid-19) but is now seeking a legal ruling on business interruption insurance in an attempt to provide greater clarity for businesses and insurers.

The BDA instructed law firm Brown Rudnick to review the wide range of business interruption policies held by its members and provide tailored legal advice for the dental sector.

In the open letter to the FCA, the BDA set out in detail the issues faced by the profession and asked the regulator to adequately reflect these in its own legal challenge.

The BDA is advising members to await the outcome of the FCA process before considering whether to pursue class action litigation, which appears premature at this stage and will not help to solve the cash crisis that members are facing now.  

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: “We have set out to get the best possible holistic advice on the dozens of policies serving the dental sector and will be sharing the lessons from that with our members. The FCA needs to appreciate the unique challenges faced by dental practices.”

“Lengthy litigation should remain a last resort, and won’t keep practices afloat today. Our aim is to give our members the best possible understanding of their legal position and the FCA the best understanding of the dental sector.”

“We want to see the FCA process lead to speedy resolution but for that to happen, the Authority needs to appreciate and consider the particular impact of the pandemic on dentistry. We hope our submission achieves that in unequivocal terms.”

The BDA and Brown Rudnick will host a members-only webinar on 17 June for dentists to discuss the review conducted by the law firm, the BDA’s letter to the FCA, and what next steps are likely to look like.

BDA surveys indicate as little as a third of practices reopened last week, most at less than a quarter of their former capacity, leading to ongoing risks to the sustainability of the sector. 

Only 8% of respondent practices estimated they will be able to maintain their viability on the basis of lower patient numbers and sky-high costs. Costs for personal protective equipment alone for treating a single patient have increased by up to 6,000%. 

Commenting on the re-opening of dental practices last week, Armstrong said: “The skeleton service now operating remains hugely vulnerable, operating a fraction of its former capacity while facing sky-high costs. The country and policymakers will be faced with a national dental health crisis if dentists do not receive the urgent support that they need now including the speedy resolution of whether or not the insurance companies will payout.”