Just three per cent of companies wanting to diagnose whiplash claims have been given a clean bill of health by auditors, it has been revealed.

An audit progress update published this month by the medical reports clearing house MedCo states that 60% of medical reporting organisations (MROs) were given a ‘red’ rating, with 37% receiving an ‘amber’ rating.

The audit exposes a range of problems with member companies, including quality assurance, ethics and validation of experts. Some MROs had no sufficient or credible evidence to support that they had complied in key areas, while others had breached quality control rules by delegating it to automated software and/or third parties.

MedCo says a low proportion of green-rated reports is not unusual for the first round of a new regulatory assessment, as firms take time to adjust their systems and processes, but the organisation admits the number of members given the all-clear is ‘at the low end of expectations’.

The role of MedCo, which accredits and regulates doctors providing whiplash diagnosis, is set to take on greater significance in April 2020 when the Civil Liability Act is fully implemented. Cases will not be settled without claimants having a medical examination, and with a greater number of litigants in person, it will likely be the MROs that ensure people retain the correct level of compensation.

As of March this year, 105 MROs were registered with MedCo along with 729 operational, active medical experts.

The audit explains there has been a tendency for MROs to apply for accreditation at the earliest possible opportunity, rather than wait until they can demonstrate compliance on a consistent and sustainable basis.

Successful new entrants were able to show they had read compliance documents and had everything in place to be operational from day one.

Those that were unsuccessful ‘often only planned to start doing this once they had been switched to operational status’.

On average, MROs receive seven recommendations of how to improve per report. But on re-examination, just 30% of recommendations made against red-rated audits had been implemented and completed.

There is no indication that enforcement action has been taken in response to these audit reports. It was confirmed in March that 426 warning leterrs had been sent and 281 users suspended from the MedCo register (99 were reinstated after their behavior was rectified).

A MedCo spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘MedCo is pleased with the audit results and progress continues to be made to drive up performance and behaviours. It is an improving picture as MedCo’s processes and performance monitoring continue to drive out bad practices as well as identifying “shell” companies.’