The medico-legal and insurance services (MLIS) market had an estimated turnover of £700m last year but the coronavirus will have a “major impact”, a report has warned.
IRN Research said that among the challenges it faced as a result of the virus were fewer doctors available to write expert witness reports, while obtaining medical records was becoming “in some instances impossible”.
“Many MLIS businesses are likely to come out of the current lockdown with reduced cash resources and a backlog of work to complete. But they are also likely to face a potential drop in referrals because of a decline in personal injury and other claims over the lockdown period.”
The UK Medico-Legal & Insurance Services Market Report 2020 said there were over 80,000 fewer cases registered on the Claims Portal in May 2020 compared with six months earlier.
“At the same time, many medically trained individuals may decide not to work as experts immediately after the lockdown is lifted, given their intense workload over the crisis period.
“With potentially reduced claims and skills shortages pushing up labour costs, the success of MLIS providers will rest on their ability to operate as efficiently as possible.”
Meanwhile, getting medical records was “more difficult and in some cases impossible” as hospitals redeployed staff away from administration.
IRN said that of the 104 MLIS companies studied for the report, 71 could be considered as micro or small companies.
The report found that consolidation had created “significant industry groups”, such as Active Assistance, which owns 10 MLIS companies, Handl Group, which owns five and Slater & Gordon, with two.
However, in terms of staff numbers, ExamWorks was clearly the biggest, with around a quarter of the sector’s total employees compared to Active and Handl, which each have around 10%.
The main players between them generated nearly £500m of the sector’s turnover, with the rest also including self-employed medical experts and case managers.
Growth rates in the market had “noticeably slowed” since 2017, with growth of just 1% in 2019.
IRN said that, apart from Covid-19, the MLIS market was being hit by increased competitive pressures.
Researchers said that “increased competition for scarce medical skills” was forcing up rates of pay, “with many smaller operators, in particular, finding the going hard”.
Following implementation of the Civil Liability Act next April, IRN predicted a rise in the number of litigants in person and estimated that they could commission up to 130,000 medical reports themselves.
The report found that the volume of injuries from RTAs and workplace accidents was declining, although the number of serious RTA injuries “remained significant” and there were “still a significant number of high-value clinical negligence cases”.