MoJ tightens controls on MedCo members

Topics: Personal injury & clinical negligence

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The government has announced a series of measures designed to strengthen the new panel of independent doctors diagnosing whiplash claims.

In a statement published just before the Easter break, the Ministry of Justice responded officially to last year’s review of the MedCo scheme.

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The new portal for sourcing initial medical reports was introduced in April 2015, but has been beset by problems with accreditation training, and the make-up and choice of the medical reporting organisations doing the work.

The MoJ said a number of practices had emerged ‘which had the potential to undermine both the government’s policy objectives and public confidence in the system’.

The review, which closed last September, attracted 93 responses from solicitors, insurers and experts, with general support for more choice of medical experts. Currently solicitors are given a choice of seven MROs, one of which is a larger ‘tier-one’ provider.

Following the review, the MoJ said expert searches will now come up with a choice of two tier-one MROs and 10 from tier two.

Changes will also be made to the qualifying criteria for companies doing the diagnosis.

The government said practices such as registering multiple ‘shell’ MROs on the system must stop, removing potential ambiguities from the process.

New criteria will cover the definition of an MRO to establish the core roles and functions of each one, with a wider application of minimum service standards. This will be finalised following a further survey of stakeholders that will last until 15 April.

The 250 experts - a requirement for each tier-one MRO - will be ‘active MedCo-accredited’ and qualified to prepare initial whiplash reports. Previously, companies were only required to have contractual arrangements with 250 experts, but there was no requirement that they had to be practising.

Tier-one MROs will be required to have a two-year trading history and have a minimum of five distinct clients, with no single client providing more than 40% of its work.

The declaration of financial links between providers and law firms requesting reports will also be subject to tighter control. Companies must show they have had no financial links with law firms in the last three years – up from one year presently. This is to protect against the transfer of ownership to other family members.

Further guidance will also be provided on the payment of commissions or referral fees and how the issue of employees’ links should be dealt with.

The changes are likely to come into force in late summer 2016.

The government said many respondents called for greater regulation of MROs, but the formal response noted this was a ‘complex area’ which will be considered for further action if required.

Nigel Teasdale, the Forum of Insurance Lawyers’ representative on MedCo, said the reforms will tighten up the regime and prevent practices which undermine the system.  

‘The changes to the qualifying criteria and the declaration of financial links should make the rules clearer and reduce the potential for abuse,’ he said.

Readers' comments (9)

  • In the government's eyes, how good does a doctor need to be in order to diagnose a fictitious condition?

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  • They probably have to be better than someone needs to be to post a vacuous comment like that.

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  • I am Anon 12.31. You appear to be labouring under the mistaken belief that I (rather than the government) deny the existence of whiplash. You are wrong.

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  • I know plenty who have made money out of fictitious whiplash condition though.

    Is that comment so vacuous as a consequence?

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  • Like many things in life, so some may be fictitious. However why should the fictitious ones get to dictate the future and fate of the genuine

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  • Anon 12:31 - I am 12:38 and you have my apology for my misapprehension, though in mitigation your statement is very open to being misunderstood.

    RG - it is not vacuous as a consequence. But then your comment is vague and it is not clear if you also refer to fictitious whiplash in the sense of 12:31, if you believe whiplash is truly fictitious, if you know fraudulent claimants, fraudulent solicitors etc etc.

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  • Whiplash medical reporting legislation is now an exquisite labyrinthine masterpiece designed by the Insurance industry. Its masterly over complication is a tribute to the enormous power of the AIB. When all else has turned to dust and ashes I would like to think that their plethora of regulations will survive intact in a safe in the MOJ and aliens or future dominant species can marvel at the complex structures created, in the same way that we wonder at the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Machu Picchu ruins of Peru.

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  • Pardon me asking, but is this the soft tissue injury that a body of self-selected medical reporters is being trained to examine and report upon the same injury that the Government is going to exclude from the Courts' power to compensate?
    And when the Government has removed neck-sprain injuries from the lexicon of soft tissue injuries, when can we expect chest-wall strains, ligamentous seat-belt injuries etc to be added to the list?
    Or will the "Small Claim" rules simply be extended to all injuries and the limit boosted to £5,000? (Any larger limit will start to hurt the rest of the economic infrastructure relying on PI claims?

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  • Short answer - yes.

    One does wonder if you will not be allowed to have a whiplash injury only if you are in a car. If you come off the rails at Alton Towers and get a neck sprain will you be able to claim? What about slipping at work and spraining your neck etc etc.

    Raising the small claims injury limit to £10,000 wouldn't stop claims but any increase will drive clients into the clutching grasp of CMCs and their 30% deductions. But hey, as long as it is clients paying for it that's ok!

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