MedCo faces yet another problem as it has been discovered that four 'tier-one' providers of whiplash diagnosis have been exploiting the online system, allowing them to artificially inflate the number of 'hits' they receive for any Medco search.
It has been reported that since July, PMG, Doctors Chambers, Speed Medical and Premex have registered 70 new companies between them, despite only being entitled to register one each. They now have more than 126 entities listed with Companies House and all have the same address for their headquarters.
Unfortunately MedCo has stated they are unable to stop companies from registering more than once in this way. They have tried to deter companies by continually warning them that registration fees for duplicate companies will not be refunded, but to no avail.
The purpose of Medco is to allow lawyers to choose a medical expert to instruct in their case, from a list of seven. However, the actions of the four providers will lead to them and their subsidiaries appearing in the 'random' search results more often than others. Consequently smaller providers will appear less and therefore give the large medical reporting organisations (MROs) a greater chance of being instructed.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are aware there may be companies trying to circumvent the system and it has announced that it would take action. However, a year on, reforms are yet to materialise. The recent news may well push the MoJ to come up with ways to remedy the position. In response to the discovery they said "registering multiple shell companies is totally unacceptable, and we will be implementing new qualifying criteria to tackle this behaviour. Announcements on these changes will follow in due course".
This is not the first time users of MedCo have tried to avoid the random allocation of experts. In May 42 users were suspended from using MedCo and a number of solicitors were reported to the SRA as a result. They were seeking to increase the probability of particular experts being produced in a search by, for example, repeat searches, when 'searches of general or speculative nature' are not permitted by the scheme and an explanation is required for second searches relating to the same incident. There is a need for issues to be resolved quickly as the continuation of problems seriously undermines the validity of the system.