MedCo issued 337 warning letters to users – and went on to suspend two-thirds of them – over the past year for behaviours such as circumventing the random search selection process and influencing medical experts’ opinions on diagnosis/prognosis, it has emerged.
Other behaviours that prompted MedCo to take action include undertaking medical examinations in inappropriate circumstances, increasing market share of instructions in breach of government policy, and failing to upload case data, the company behind the system has revealed.
The figures came in MedCo’s submission to the justice select committee for its inquiry into the government’s personal injury reforms, both of which have now been dropped because of the election – although they could re-emerge afterwards.
MedCo said that in the year to 31 March 2017, it sent 337 warning letters sent, suspended 235 users – medical reporting organisations, direct medical experts and ‘authorised users’, mainly claimant lawyers – although 84 of them were reinstated after modifying their behaviour. In all, 134 user agreements were terminated.
Since its implementation in April 2015, there have been 882,000 searches resulting in the selection of an MRO and over 123,000 searches resulting in the selection of a direct medical expert, MedCo said.
MedCo said the proposed increase in the small claims limit – and likely increase in litigants in person – could have a “major impact” as the system was not designed for direct contact with litigants. “Significant changes to MedCo processes will be necessary.”
The proposed ban on pre-medical offers would also likely result in an increase in the use of MedCo, it said.
“The reforms will require increased monitoring of behaviours by MedCo and a review of procedures to deal with the challenges of identifying trends which attempt to circumvent legislation and government policy.
“For example, there is a high risk that there will be attempts to influence medical experts to increase prognosis periods to achieve higher damages awards. MedCo may also need to review its constitution to include representatives from claims management companies and litigants in person/McKenzie Friends.”