The MedCo portal, which went live in April 2015, is a government imposed mandatory system for sourcing medical reports on soft tissue and whiplash claims in road traffic accident cases. Still a system in its infancy, the government has been consulting on how effectively the Medco Portal has been working and Thompsons has been pleased to provide its views.

In the consultation, the minister responsible, Lord Faulks, says the government is committed to “greater independence” in the way that medical evidence in support of soft tissue claims is obtained. It is concerned that “new business practices” have developed in the personal injury sector which stifle competition and increase opportunities both for “unhealthy” relationships between the commissioners of medical reports and those who write them, and for fraud.

Where is the evidence?

In our response to the consultation, Thompsons, as commissioners of over 10,000 medical reports a year, questions whether there is any evidence that the personal injury sector has a major problem with the issues the consultation purports to address.

Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, comments that the consultation document “unfortunately shows the tell-tale signs of being another baseless attack by the government on the personal injury sector; one that says more about its cosy relationship with the insurance industry than any real determination to improve the system for the end user, the injured party.”

Mr Jones continues: “In relying unquestioningly on ABI figures, the government lays bare its relationship with an industry in whose interest it is to keep the issue of fraud uppermost in the minds of legislators and the public. We do not know of any other area of business the government is so keen to regulate to solve a problem which has yet to be adequately evidenced.

Random selection of doctors bad for the injured party

“In order to reduce apparently unhealthy business practices, claimant representatives now have to go through a lucky-dip lottery to secure an expert and are often compelled to select agencies or experts of whom they have little knowledge and with which they have no agreed business terms. This random system is no good for us and, more importantly, is not good for our clients who end up with a doctor about whom we know very little and whose report we are then forced to use.

“If the issue here is fraud then wherever it is identified it should be investigated and prosecuted through the courts to make a public example of those involved. The fact that the current number of prosecutions for allegedly fraudulent behaviour is minute in comparison to the number of medical reports commissioned every year suggests that the level of fraud is in fact virtually non-existent and this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”