January 4, 2019

Whiplash reform: MedCo audit fails to give MROs a clean bill of health

Symptoms of poor performance identified ahead of expected scrutiny following the passage of Civil Liability Bill

The Civil Liability Act prevents offers to settle whiplash claims in RTAs without first obtaining a medical report from a MedCo accredited expert. The expected increase in the small claims limit for RTAs to £5,000 is expected lead to an increase in litigants in person.

This increase will be managed by the introduction of a new portal to handle these claims, scheduled for April 2020. Claimants will now be expected to deal with Medical Reporting Organisations ("MROs") themselves in order to obtain medical reports. To deal with claimants with no legal representation, it is an absolute necessity that the system and MROs need to be fit for purpose. 

Claimants, defendants and insurers need to have full trust in the MedCo system, particularly as the introduction of a tariff system will leave the parties heavily reliant on the prognosis provided by the accredited expert.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a lot of work to be done by MROs ahead of April 2020.

In an audit progress update released by MedCo in December, only 3% of MROs received a 'green' rating, indicating that the relevant criteria were wholly or substantially complied with. More alarmingly, 60% of MROs audited suffered from acute audit failure, receiving a 'red' rating showing they were 'substantially non-compliant'. The remaining 37% received an 'amber' rating, which means they were 'partially compliant' but lacking key evidence in several areas.

Whilst MedCo stated that few 'green' ratings are expected during the initial round of a new regulatory assessment, it noted that the positive results were 'at the low end of expectations'. 

Those previously audited had been given seven recommendations on average per report, but it was found that only 30% of those rated 'red' had been completed and implemented when reconsidered.

It is clear that further work is required to bring MROs up to the appropriate standard, and that the passage of the Civil Liability Bill, and continuing progress of the whiplash reform programme makes this more urgent than ever.