There are too many poor-quality medical reports being produced via MedCo, and so it is premature to extend it to other types of personal injury claim, a leading claimant solicitor has cautioned.
Matt Currie, managing partner for motor road traffic accident claims at Irwin Mitchell, also called on practitioners to tell MedCo about sub-standard reports.
Writing on the blog of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, Mr Currie said that, at the moment, solicitors could often work through the issues MedCo presented, and the instances of poor quality reports, to achieve the right outcome.
“Post law reform litigants in person will be left in no-man’s land where a doctor has failed to provide an adequate service or report,” he observed.
Nonetheless, he said some of the benefits of MedCo were now coming through: “Some of the data analytics is starting to shine a light on doctors who don’t understand the importance of what they do and some solicitors have started to recognise that attempts to ‘game’ the randomisation can have serious adverse consequences for their business.”
But he suggested that not enough progress has been made given its cost – which ultimately is paid by motorists as MedCo is funded by the Association of British Insurers.
The status of some medical reporting organisations has not been settled, which has meant both more cost and “some agencies… focused on battles with MedCo rather than optimising the service they provide”.
The increase in litigation led to MedCo’s recent announcement of a major hike in fees.
Mr Currie said: “There are anecdotal stories about the approach to audit of some agencies which suggests that the purpose of MedCo has been somewhat forgotten in the audit. Equally there are anecdotal stories about some poor agency behaviours as well.
“Ultimately this distraction means that the obtaining of good-quality independent objective medical evidence in a timely manner is not being progressed in the way it should. Whilst data is helping, practitioners still know that the quality of too many reports is simply not up to scratch.”
There is talk of MedCo’s remit being extended to cover EL/PL claims and also rehabilitation. “There are many arguments why each of this extensions would not be appropriate but the fact that MedCo is essentially still struggling with its own teething problems means that extension could only be viewed as premature,” Mr Currie said.
“Before there is any extension of the remit of MedCo the Ministry of Justice needs to take some responsibility for facilitating a solution that works for the current purpose. MedCo itself needs to ensure that audit is focused on achieving good-quality medical reports.
“At the same time, practitioners need to take responsibility for identifying bad reports and doctors who do not understand their duty. More reporting to MedCo of instances of poor reporting can only help MedCo to focus their audit and training.
“Ultimately the whole industry still needs to work together to make sure that MedCo is working for the consumers who pay for it.”