The Ministry of Justice has fast-tracked its review of whiplash reforms amidst concerns that its policies are being undermined by a new procedure for diagnosing injuries.
Justice minister Lord Faulks today announced an immediate analysis of the new MedCo system which created a panel of doctors to handle whiplash cases.
A review had been scheduled to take place in September – only after six months of useable data were available. The system went live on 6 April.
But instead the assessment will start immediately. It follows the raising of concerns about medical reporting organisations submitting multiple applications for inclusion on the panel.
Faulks said: ‘Since the portal went live on 6 April 2015, issues relating to a number of new business practices within this sector have emerged which have the potential to undermine the government’s policy objectives and public confidence in the MedCo portal.’
The review will ask all parties involved in the personal injury sector to comment on whether MedCo is maintaining competition in the market. Evidence will be gathered to see whether changes are needed to the portal or to the framework of rules underpinning it.
A report with recommendations for action, if required, will be published in the autumn.
The MoJ went public last month with concerns about large MROs registering multiple companies for diagnosis panels.
Solicitors are, in theory, able to choose from one top-tier provider and six second-tier providers in selecting a medical expert to diagnose their client. The scheme is designed to take away financial links between lawyers and experts, while at the same time ensuring injured people have a choice of doctor.
In a statement published on the MedCo website, the MoJ said the practice of established high-volume MROs registering multiple new smaller MROs prevents users from choosing from a range of unconnected experts.
Any company which has applied for tier-one status must show the ability to process at least 40,000 reports a year.
Rob Cummings, manager, general insurance at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: ‘The ABI welcomes the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence on MedCo. As the MoJ have previously made clear, the unanticipated gaming behaviour of some organisations within the system has had the effect of undermining the policy objectives of MedCo. Potential changes to the system that limit these kinds of behaviour and help produce better outcomes for claimants need to be explored.’