The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has published new rules and qualifying criteria for companies wanting to join the MedCo system as a Medical Reporting Organisation (MRO).

We reported recently how MedCo was facing problems after discovering that four 'tier-one' providers had exploited the online system and registered 70 new companies between them. MROs were creating "shell" companies which would place them more frequently in the 'random' allocated expert search.

The MoJ has stated they will not tolerate this act designed to undermine its scheme and that "MROs must be fully functioning entities in their own right and must have a principal function of providing medical reporting services".

The qualifying criteria:

  • Defines an MRO as "an organisation whose principle function is to provide medico-legal reporting services"
  • Requires all aspiring MROs to provide documentation to prove they are independent, properly staffed and resourced, and directly responsible for all work associated with receiving instructions;
  • Put forward a 'financial instrument' of £20,000 to show they have sufficient fund available to remunerate medical experts commissioned to write reports. Top-tier firms must have a financial instrument of £100,000
  • Have a minimum of £1m for professional indemnity insurance and £3m for public liability insurance

Failure to meet the qualifying criteria will "result in removal from the MedCo system for registered MROs and the rejection of applications from new MROs attempting to register".

For new applicants to the MedCo system, the criteria applies from 28 October and for existing 'shell' companies it will apply from 8 November. For all other MROs, the criteria will be in place in three months' time, on 25 January 2017.

Following the implementation of the qualifying criteria, a Medco search will now generate twelve results (an increase from seven); two from tier-one and ten from tier-two.

The new guidelines have received mixed reviews. The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) has welcomed the news and noted the changes to the qualifying criteria is a "significant step in MedCo's development" and hope the new guidelines will improve the quality of the medical reports. However some believe they will not work in the absence of wider, systemic, whiplash reforms.