The company responsible for running the government’s flagship whiplash scheme has admitted that it is powerless to stop the biggest diagnosis companies flooding the system.
The Gazette has discovered that four 'tier-one' providers of whiplash diagnosis in the MedCo scheme have registered 70 new companies between them since July.
Premex, Doctors Chambers, PMG and Speed Medical now have more than 126 entities listed with Companies House – all with the same address as their headquarters.
The companies have been accused of exploiting the online MedCo system, which allows lawyers to choose a medical expert to instruct from a choice of seven.
As tier-one companies, the quartet appear in random searches more often, but by adding subsidiaries they can ensure they also fill the spots intended for smaller providers.
One tier-two provider told the Gazette: ‘Obviously if the large MROs (by way of their multiple listings) appear more in search results, then smaller providers must appear less.’
The Ministry of Justice announced more than a year ago it would take action to stop companies ‘gaming’ the system, but reforms have yet to materialise.
In the meantime, MedCo itself admitted it is unable to refuse applications for multiple-tier registrations.
In a statement, MedCo said: ‘When the MoJ publishes the revised qualifying criteria, which will address the problem of multiple registrations, the MedCo board will take steps to apply the new policy.
‘Organisations that clearly do not meet the new definition of an MRO and fulfil the new qualifying criteria will be suspended from the system and made non-operational.’
MedCo has previously warned that registration fees will not be refunded but these warnings seem to have had little effect on the tier-one providers.
A government review of the system was brought forward last year and prompted the changes proposed in March by the MoJ. 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.
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.
The Gazette has contacted Premex, PMG, Doctors Chambers and Speed Medical for comments. None has yet responded: PMG asked us to post questions to its head office.