Nerys Parry considers recent developments to the way that medical experts are instructed.

What is it?

The concept of an online portal to commission medical evidence in soft tissue injury claims was first proposed in October 2014, and has since developed into the MedCo portal.

Claimants must now use the MedCo portal to commission a first fixed-fee report in all road traffic accident soft tissue injury claims started by way of claim notification form sent on or after 6 April 2015. The recoverable fee for these first reports is fixed at £180. To receive instructions, medical experts must be registered with MedCo, and must declare all direct financial links. By the start of 2016 experts will also have to be accredited.

How are experts selected?

MedCo produces a random list of appropriate experts for the claimant to choose from. The results will include either one high volume national medical reporting organisation (MRO) and six smaller ones, or seven medical experts.

How are medical reporting organisations dealt with?

High volume MROs will be charged £75,000 a year to be a member of MedCo. Other smaller MROs will be charged £15,000 a year and individual experts will be charged £150 a year. A high volume MRO is defined as having the capacity to process at least 40,000 independent medical reports per year and which contracts with at least 250 individual experts.

High volume MROs will also have to lodge a bond or other financial instrument of £100,000 to show that they have sufficient funds to remunerate medical experts from whom they have commissioned reports, and smaller MROs will have to lodge £20,000. To ensure independence, high volume MROs will also be barred from taking more than 40% of their instructions from a single instructing law firm.

What about the accreditation process?

All medical experts must be accredited by MedCo Registration Solutions by 1 January 2016, failing which they will be removed from the system. It is not yet known what the accreditation process will be.

Previous claims checks

Claimant solicitors must also undertake ‘previous claims’ checks on potential claimants and insert a unique reference number generated by that search on all claim notification forms sent on or after 1 June 2015.