MedCo users will be given a greater choice of medical reporting organisations (MROs), the government has decided, while it will also stop the creation of ‘shell’ MROs and tighten up on financial links with solicitors.
A summary of the outcome of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) review of MedCo – following 93 responses to its call for evidence and a series of workshops – said the changes would be implemented in “late summer 2016”.
It revealed that the MoJ has balanced the call for more than one ‘tier 1’ MRO to be presented in search results with an increase in the overall number of results.
Currently claimants can choose between one tier 1 and six tier 2 MROs; this is to change to two and 10 respectively.
Changes to the MRO qualifying criteria aim to “remove potential ambiguity and ensure that the criteria are robust”, and to stop tier 1 MROs from registering multiple shell tier 2 agencies to increase their chances to selection.
They include a new definition of an MRO – which is the subject of a three-week survey – along with widening the criterion on minimum service standards to apply to all MROs (rather than just tier 1s as now), and making the requirement that tier 1s must have a minimum of five distinct clients and that no one client provides more than 40% of its work an ongoing condition, rather than one that only needs satisfying on registration.
The declaration of direct financial links will be strengthened by increasing the time limits for past relationships from one to three years, although it will not be extended to family links, an issue the MoJ said it would keep under review, however. The declaration will have to be re-signed annually.
The MoJ said it would work with MedCo to develop a filter to make sure that search results show the “requisite number of unique results”.
There was strong support for formal regulation of MROs, but the MoJ took a cautious approach: “This is a complex area, and the MoJ will consider whether further action is required.”
Meanwhile, MedCo confirmed last week that experts who are not accredited by 6 April but were instructed on a case prior to the deadline can provide a valid medical report. The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, agreed to extend the accreditation deadline to 1 June 2016 for such experts.
This followed MedCo deciding to bring accreditation training in-house. In a statement, it said: “The original training model, which allowed for separate training providers, does not enable MedCo 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.
“This is in no way a reflection of the training provided by third-party suppliers to date and MedCo thanks Opil Bond Solon and DocSlot.”