MedCo has suspended a further 21 shell companies from the register in an effort to stop the exploitation of the system from larger providers.
The latest enforcement action follows the earlier suspension of 134 shell companies in November 2016, taking the total to 155 since the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published new rules and qualifying criteria in October 2016.
Under the revised criteria, Medical Reporting Organisations (MROs) now have to show they are fully functioning entities in their own right and must have a principal function of providing medical reporting services. Prior to the criteria MROs were creating "shell" companies which would place them more frequently in the 'random' allocated expert search in order to gather instructions and forward them to another related organisation.
The suspended MROs will still be permitted to complete existing instructions to avoid impact on authorised users, however they will no longer feature in searches on the MedCo system.
MedCo has faced a number of problems since it was set up in 2015. Last week 23 MROs and 14 direct medical experts were suspended for failing to upload medical case data to the MedCo system within a reasonable time. Furthermore, in the year to 31 March 2017 Medco issued 337 warning letters to users for their non-compliant behaviour when using the online system. However in light of MedCo's recent enforcement actions, it still seems there is more to be done to 'debug' the system.
Potential breaches of the Medco system should be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA has been more adept in showing its teeth in enforcement action recent years and it is to be hoped this has a suitable future deterrent effect.