MedCo’s latest developments

MedCo’s latest developments

47329225_xlThe introduction of MedCo in April 2015 was designed to address concerns around the independence and quality of medical reports in road traffic accident claims and to assist the prevention of fraudulent claims.  It also aimed to break any real or perceived financial links between commissioners of reports and experts.

Background

Any appropriately accredited Medical Reporting Organisation (MROs) or qualified medical professional could register with MedCo. From 1 January 2016, under the MedCo accreditation arrangements, it was a requirement for medical experts to complete their training before 6 April 2016 in order to diagnose soft tissue injuries. However, this scheme for reducing whiplash fraud has suffered a setback with delays of up to three months. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced that it has extended the accreditation deadline for medical practitioners signing up to the MedCo scheme.

This hindrance developed in March, when medical experts that had not completed their full accreditation, were asked to start their training again as MedCo had changed its provider. MedCo decided four weeks before the original deadline of 6 April 2016, that it ‘made the difficult decision to bring accreditation training in-house’. They stated that the ‘speed and flexibility required to be able to update the accreditation training as necessary in order to ensure a current, robust, resilient and consistent programme’. As of this, accreditation training would now only be available from MedCo.

With these changes, a real concern was centred around the tightness of the deadline, with only 132 experts accredited less than a month before the deadline, the government realised that potentially there could be a major shortage of experts to diagnose soft tissue injuries. Additionally, if these issues were not resolved, then questions would be raised about top tier providers. The lack of experts accredited would mean that these providers would find it difficult to retain their statuses as their requirement is to have at least 250 accredited specialists, thus posing a flaw to the system.

It was therefore decided by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, to move the deadline from 6 April 2016 to 1 June 2016 causing a further delay in the system.

Tackling criticisms

The main purpose of MedCo was to ensure that experts had no financial links to the lawyers instructing them. However, the biggest criticism this new system faces is the limitation of claimant choice. Reports suggest that some MROs were cheating their way through this system, and registering as multiple entities to ensure market share.

The MoJ now proposes new procedures to stop the creation of ‘shell’ MROs whilst at the same time giving a greater choice of MROs to claimants. The review by MoJ reveals that there will be an increase in the search results for ‘tier 1’ MRO, giving more choice to the claimant.

At present, claimants can choose between one tier 1 and six tier 2 MROs; this is to change to two and ten respectively. Changes will also be made to the MRO qualifying criteria in an aim to remove ‘shell’ companies registering more than once to increase their chances on selection.

Other new proposals from the MoJ review are set to come into effect, summer 2016. These include:

  • The qualifying criteria will be changed to address the issue of multiple registrations – there will be a new definition of MRO to be consulted upon in a brief consultation in early April.
  • Minimum service standards will in future apply to all MROs.
  • For a Tier 1 MRO, the 250 medical experts on its books must be MedCo accredited experts but the 40,000 medico-legal reports required to meet the criteria will not all need to be MedCo reports.
  • A number of smaller changes are also made - national coverage will be defined as the ability to cover 80% of postcodes in England and Wales; the required two-year trading history must be as an MRO; and the requirement that MROs have a minimum of five clients with none providing more than 40% of the MRO’s work will become an on-going requirement, rather than one just required at registration.
  • The declaration of financial links will be changed to cover financial links over the past three years rather than just the past 12 months as at present.
  • The declaration of financial links will need to be signed annually.
  • Further guidance will be added to the declaration of financial links on the LASPO ban on referral fees and the issue of employees’ links.

These further delays and a change in the accreditation training give a chance to the critics to attack the system. It aids them with additional reasons as to why the introduction of MedCo is more complicated than planned.

Nevertheless, despite the criticism, the MoJ has put forward a rational to do list to make advancements in the interests of justice.  Hopefully the government have realised a better method to keep tabs on training procedures and are happy to implement them to improve the system in the long run. If so then a few hiccups along the way can probably be justified.

Click here to read full review from the MoJ.

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