A representative of a firm of claimant solicitors has spoken out on the quality of medical reports, produced by MedCo.[i] As discussed in previous issues of BCDN, MedCo aims to provide claimant solicitors with legitimate whiplash diagnoses, using the expertise of randomly generated experts. Recently, in edition 215 (here), we reported that MedCo would be demanding an increased annual fee for medical reporting organisations (MRO) to renew or obtain licences to practice under the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) scheme, as litigation surrounding MRO suspensions, personal injury reforms and a proposed expert accreditation scheme have created financial uncertainty. In light of recent criticism, targeted at MedCo, we consider the prospect of future plans to expand MedCo, beyond whiplash, to other types of personal injury.
Last week, the Managing Partner of a claimant solicitors’ practice urged practitioners, via the Motor Accident Solicitors Society blog, to contact MedCo when presented with ‘sub-standard reports’ and provide industry-wide support.
In October of 2018, it is expected that widespread reforms to the personal injury sector, including increases to the small claims limit, will lead to a rise in the number of litigants in person (LiP). As such, the claimant solicitor representative has highlighted that, while solicitors may regularly work through alleged poor-quality reporting, LiP may be incapable of doing so. Accordingly, he went on to say that:
‘Post law reform litigants in person will be left in no-man’s land where a doctor has failed to provide an adequate service or report’.
HAS PROGRESS BEEN PROPORTIONATE TO THE COST OF MEMBERSHIP?
Much of the news surrounding MedCo, in recent months, has been in respect of strict auditing, in accordance with revised qualifying criteria, with a view to reducing MRO malpractice, such as the creation of so-called ‘shell organisations’. However, this has caused uncertainty over MRO status, as MRO’s have commenced litigation where decisions to suspend licences have been disputed [Med Chambers and Prime Medicals) v MedCo Registration Solutions  EWHC 3258 (Admin)]. It has been argued, by the claimant representative, that this has had the effect of ‘agencies ... [being] ... focused on battles with MedCo rather than optimising the service they provide’.
Ultimately, the claimant representative argues that focus on malpractice has distracted MedCo from its major aim of obtaining ‘good-quality independent objective medical evidence in a timely manner’ for the benefit of claimants. Since MedCo is directly funded by the Association of Business Insurers and therefore indirectly funded by motor insurance premiums, MedCo has a duty of accountability to the public in respect of its value for money.
Nevertheless, the claimant representative did admit that some progress has been made by MedCo, conceding:
‘Some of the data analytics is starting to shine a light on doctors who don’t understand the importance of what they do and some solicitors have started to recognise that attempts to ‘game’ the randomisation can have serious adverse consequences for their business’.
It has been speculated that MedCo may soon be extended to encompass EL/PL claims, as well as rehabilitation claims. Some see this as inappropriate and immature, especially as the scheme is still struggling with ‘teething problems’. As a result, the claimant representative has advised MedCo that:
‘Before there is any extension ... the Ministry of Justice needs to take some responsibility for facilitating a solution that works for the current purpose. MedCo itself needs to ensure that audit is focused on achieving good-quality medical reports’.
He went on to say that:
‘At the same time, practitioners need to take responsibility for identifying bad reports and doctors who do not understand their duty. More reporting to MedCo of instances of poor reporting can only help MedCo to focus their audit and training’.
We will continue to report on industry reaction to developments within MedCo in due course.
[i] Neil Rose, ‘Poor-quality reports mean it’s “premature” to expand MedCo’ (1 February 2018 Litigation Futures) <https://www.litigationfutures.com/news/poor-quality-reports-mean-premature-expand-medco> accessed 5 February 2018.