Dozens suspended for MedCo whiplash panel breach
May 16th, 2016
Dozens of solicitors and doctors have been suspended from using the new whiplash injury assessment panel over concerns about their conduct, the Law Society Gazette reveals.
By the end of April, 45 users were suspended from the MedCo register apparently for attempting to circumvent its random allocation of experts.
While 36 have been reinstated after their behaviour was rectified, the Gazette understands that another wave of suspensions is expected in the coming weeks. Some 78 warning letters have also been dispatched.
MedCo was set up last year as part of the government's programme to clamp down on fraudulent road traffic claims. It gives solicitors a choice of accredited medical reporting organisations which must be used to diagnose whiplash cases.
Examples of 'non-compliant behaviour' resulting in enforcement action include attempts to manipulate the system's search function and efforts to boost the likelihood of particular experts appearing in results.
A number of solicitors have been reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority over their conduct in using the MedCo scheme, although no doctors have yet been referred to their regulator.
A spokeswoman for MedCo said that users who appear to have been intentionally manipulating the search function were being identified, monitored and investigated.
'Attempts to bypass the random allocation of medical experts and [medical reporting organisations] constitute a serious breach of the authorised user agreement and a number of the worst offenders have been suspended until they have been able to satisfactorily demonstrate that their behaviour has changed,' she added.
'That process is ongoing as there remain a number of firms still in breach of the agreement, and action will be taken. Solicitor firms should be aware that their use of the search function will continue to be monitored.'
At this month's Association of Personal Injury Lawyers conference, justice minister Lord Faulks said a number of practices had emerged which 'have the potential to undermine both the government's policy objectives and public confidence in the system.
'Such behaviour was not envisaged by the government when the system was developed, and has subsequently been considered as part of the MoJ's recent review of MedCo,' he added.
Faulks said the scheme had been able to identify multiple attempts to circumvent the system by lawyers, MROs and experts.
John Hyde, Reporter at The Law Gazette