On 16 July 2015 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced a formal review of the operational framework of MedCo. The review, which the MoJ clearly says “is starting earlier than planned”, comes just over 100 days after the mandatory arrangements for obtaining medico-legal reports in whiplash claims via MedCo took effect in early April. The Minister in charge, Lord Faulks QC, stated that “a number of new business practices have developed in this sector with the potential to undermine both the Government’s policy objectives and public confidence in MedCo.” MoJ has requested submissions by 4 September.
The newly-announced review is described as a call for evidence, which can be found here. This process is getting underway in a lot less time than the six months that MoJ had initially intended to wait before taking stock of the performance of the MedCo portal and the behaviours of those that operate in the medico-legal reporting sector.
While the announcement may come as a surprise – and definitely comes much earlier than expected – the language used in the material published by MoJ appears to be carefully worded so as not to leave any impression of a change in policy or approach.
That said, MedCo was set up very quickly in the first half of the year and met with resistance and criticism from some quarters from the outset. It is believed still to be the subject of two sets of judicial review proceedings brought against the MoJ. It may therefore be understandable that the Ministry is robustly sticking to restating its objectives in setting up the process. To that end, perhaps, the paper and accompanying questionnaire issued by MoJ focus particularly on how the MoJ’s objectives in setting up MedCo – to address “unhealthy relationships” and to “tackle dysfunctional behaviour” in the personal injury sector – are being furthered by the MedCo arrangements.
The review is likely to be regarded as ‘good news’ by MedCo’s proponents and critics alike. The former will see in it a tight focus on improving behaviours in the sector and a willingness by MoJ to take quick action if needed. The latter will probably regard it as something of a ‘wobble’ by the MoJ on a key area and maybe even see in it a tacit concession that the initial setting up of MedCo left something to be desired.
This review sits alongside the judicial review proceedings against MedCo. Not only that, it also comes to light very shortly after the Chancellor announced an important review of another part of the personal injury sector, that being a fundamental review of the regulation of claims management companies. While these issues may not necessarily be linked it is clear that all of them will play out over the next six months or so and are likely to have significant weight in the ongoing debate about the process and the behaviours associated with the presentation of low-value motor injury claims.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).