MASS Yorkshire/Lancashire Region Coordinator and Partner & Head of Compliance at True Solicitors LLP
A lot has been said and written about MedCo but it is important to remember the key government objectives; namely to create an improved, robust system, for the provision of medical evidence by accredited experts which will deter unnecessary or speculative claims but ensure the genuinely injured have access to help they need, and to introduce greater independence into the system by breaking the financial links between those who commission reports and the experts or medical reporting organisations (MROs) who provide them. The government is on record stating that it is committed to the introduction of greater independence and it sees MedCo Portal as a vital component in achieving this aim.
The wrongs that the Government wishes to put right are admirable but let us not lose sight of the fact that we need to successfully operate these procedures in a fixed fee environment and the changes implemented have to be efficient to reflect this.
So where are we at? The government considers MedCo is important and that it must succeed and to this end it has brought forward its review. It published its call for evidence in July and requested feedback from all stakeholders by September. The MRO audits have commenced so have the experts accreditation.
From our view point as claimant lawyers it has been an interesting time considering the practical aspects the changes on our working requirements have been since the implementation of MedCo. The main difference being prior to MedCo we regularly engaged the services of approximately 6 MROs and now we are required to work with approximately 40, including the newly formed companies that are associated with existing MROs.
But what has this really meant in our day to day practice? As claimant lawyers it is our responsibility to always act in the best interests of our clients and, of course, we would expect the same of the suppliers to whom we introduce our clients. It has certainly been a busy few months getting to know new medical agencies to ensure they can give the quality of service we require, as well as reacquainting ourselves with agencies we worked with in the past. From my point of view I can only liken it to the ‘snog, marry, avoid’ playground game but with a lot more at stake on a commercial basis. Those MROs we wish to work with, those we don’t, and the ones we just don’t know.
It appears to me that the main criticism of MedCo is the random allocation of MROs and experts which, as there are currently no service standard requirements, could lead to the instruction of sub-standard MROs. However, I feel that with the declaration of financial interest, the detailed accreditation, and the implementation of audits, MedCo will achieve the Government’s objectives.
I believe it is in all our interests to ensure that MedCo succeeds and that we should work together to put right any wrongs and ensure the smooth running in the obtaining of expert reports on behalf of our clients in the future.