By: 10 September 2014

The Government’s plans to reform the delivery of medical evidence in relation to whiplash claims has come under attack for being too favourable towards defendants and for adding unnecessary costs.

Claimant solicitors and medical experts have led the attack on the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on independence in medical reporting and expert accreditation, which was released on 4 September.

Ministers have proposed three main changes to medical reporting. The first is the introduction of a new independent IT hub, tentatively called ‘MedCo’, which will be funded by the ABI and will remove the any direct links between those commissioning medical reports and medical experts.

Under the new system, anyone commissioning a report would have to ask MedCo to receive a list of appropriate medical agencies or experts that it can use.

The second proposal is the accreditation of experts, this will also be done by MedCo. The third is to go ahead with a data sharing solution drawn up by the claims industry, which will make it mandatory for claimant representatives to check the claims history of potential clients before sending a Claim Notification Form to a defendant’s insurer.

Craig Budsworth, the Chair of the Motor Accidents Solicitors Society (MASS), said that it was concerned that the “balance of justice” had already shifted in favour of defendants.

“This further consultation focuses on the Government’s drive to develop the changes promised last October,” he said.

“We were already concerned that the balance of justice has shifted in the favour of defendants ahead of the impact of these proposed changes and the further reforms yet to be implemented next month.

“We have yet to see all the savings being passed on by insurers from the changes so far and these changes will again save them money. The Government must demand that consumers see the full benefits of these reforms in reduced motor insurance premiums.”

Andrew Pemberton, director of Argent Rehabilitation, said that although the principle of independence and higher quality in expert medical reporting was one that the industry could support, the Government’s latest consultation had not addressed added costs and inefficiencies in the medical reporting process.

“The inability to have service level agreements with providers of choice will potentially drag down the quality of service and prevent claimant representatives from delivering to the same standards they do today,” he said.

“An example of this is at Argent we are able to pre-populate a medical experts report with data gathered by a telephone triage. This prevents duplication and increases the time available to the expert at the assessment.

“Without these kinds of links the patient experience will suffer, the time taken by GPs, and therefore costs, will increase,” he added.