The absence of rehabilitation from the new whiplash regime risks “unintended and ill-considered consequences”, a group of leading rehabilitation specialists and medical reporting organisations has warned.
The small claims portal set to be introduced in April 2020 will not initially make provision for rehabilitation, and the group – Together for Rehabilitation – has called for it to be linked to a separate rehabilitation portal.
The group’s members include Ascenti, 3D Rehab, Overland Health, Speed Medical and Innovate Healthcare.
Under its proposal, the portal would facilitate online screening of claimants and, if required, direct them to accredited providers.
Together for Rehabilitation said it was working on this framework with the likes of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers’ rehabilitation group, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Association of British Insurers.
In a statement, the group said: “By providing easy access to rehabilitation to those who need it, despite the increased liability risk posed by the removal of legal representation under the reforms, the framework will protect against the increasing burden of rehabilitation injuries on the NHS.
“In turn, maintaining this access to treatment should avoid victims being unable to work for significant periods of time, which could adversely affect the UK economy.”
Next year’s reforms implement part one of the Ministry of Justice consultation on reforming the whiplash claims process – which closed in January 2017 – but its response to part two of the consultation, which covered rehabilitation and other related issues, has still not been published.
There had been hopes that it would finally happen by the end of this year, but the general election may scupper them.
Together for Rehabilitation spokesman Joel Booth said: “We are disappointed that rehabilitation has not been properly considered to form a whole system approach in the process of reforming personal injury claims.
“Our industry supports over half a million patients each year, ensuring that people can step back in to work and continue to contribute to the UK workforce after an accident. A process that is optimised to support injury outcomes and patient needs is therefore essential to avoid unintended and ill-considered consequences.
“With the absence of lawyers protecting the best interests of patients under the new soft injury claims process, a simple framework is required which non-represented claimants can easily access and navigate.
“The framework put forward by Together for Rehabilitation will deliver this, and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice and cross-industry partners.”