Whiplash panel making headway after ‘tough’ start

The chair of a new panel of independent whiplash doctors has admitted that the first six months of the scheme have been ‘tough’ – but insisted that it is starting to change behaviours.

The Ministry of Justice brought forward a call for evidence just three months after MedCo went live, amid accusations that medical agencies are ‘gaming’ the scheme to secure market share.

Lorraine Rogerson, MedCo board chair, told a conference last week the scheme is bedding in and needs time to work. Rogerson said MedCo has started to tackle bad behaviour in the personal injury sector, with rogue elements being ‘dobbed in’ by users of the scheme.

‘Is it going to achieve what it was set up to do? I don’t know,’ she said. ‘It was not set up to solve everything: MedCo’s purpose is to regulate access to accredited suppliers of medical reports.’

Speaking at the same conference, Richard Mason, deputy director for civil justice at the MoJ, denied the scheme was implemented too quickly and was ‘optimistic’ it will succeed.

‘We have brought a review forward as it made sense. This thing is going to deliver for us,’ he said.

MedCo attempts to cut financial ties between claimant lawyers and the medical agencies they instruct. But the MoJ raised the alarm after doubts about medical reporting agencies registering multiple entities and therefore restricting choice of expert.

There is also concern that some registered bodies lack capacity to carry out the nationwide scale of medical checks they have promised.

The Association of British Insurers, which hosted the conference, has suggested MROs should be barred from registering more than one company. In its response to the MoJ, the organisation said national ‘shell’ companies have been registered that significantly reduce the choice supposedly offered to law firms selecting an expert.

Thompsons Solicitors, which commissions 10,000 reports a year, said the random system harms clients as they end up with unfamiliar doctors. Head of policy Tom Jones said: ‘Claimant representatives now have to go through a lucky-dip lottery to secure an expert.’

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