Industry Expert View: Martin Heskins

Martin Heskins has been involved with MedCo since its inception in 2015 and is now in his sixth year as executive chair. Here, the former civil justice policy adviser to the Law Society looks at how MedCo has changed the medical reporting process and urges others to help shape future change by taking part in the ongoing Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation.

I suspect that a lot of lawyers think life would be a lot easier if MedCo didn’t exist, but for my part – and I speak as a solicitor who spent several years in private practice – I do think it has improved the medical reporting process for all concerned.

It was introduced as part of a package of reforms to tackle the increase in low-value RTA claims and the associated costs, so it was never going to be popular with lawyers. Look past that though and, although some may say it has created yet more hoops for them to jump through, what we’ve created is a database of reputable, reliable, accredited and available medical professionals ready to assist lawyers and unrepresented claimants in a timely fashion instead of them having to find their own.

When I started out, the responsibility lay with the lawyer and I wouldn’t like to say how many spurious reports were provided. The general view is that certain experts were favoured and, in a minority of cases, financial incentives offered in exchange for reports that corroborated the claimant’s version of events. Driving up standards can only be a good thing. These days, medical experts who provide reports for low-value RTA claims must be registered with MedCo, which requires them to complete annual online training to understand the court rules and the different elements that a report must contain.

Our members fall into three categories:

  • Medical Reporting Organisations (MROs) which are split into Tier 1 and Tier 2; MROs join in the lower tier but can apply to move into the higher tier after two years.
  • Indirect Medical Experts (IMOs) who are completely independent of MedCo and receive their work solely via MRO panel/s.
  • Direct Medical Experts (DMEs) who take their instructions direct from claimant representatives, unrepresented claimants or other authorised users such as insurers.

We’re not a regulator, but many would consider us to be a quasi-regulator as the relationship we have with our members is contractual and if they breach the terms of that contract for any reason then we can issue a warning or suspend or terminate their membership. We also have the power to audit without notice so can and will turn up at their offices unannounced. 

We deal with any complaints that come to us, but we also proactively monitor data to identify any outliers or bad behaviour that require further investigation and appropriate action. In some cases, this can involve working closely with the relevant professional regulators such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority, General Medical Council, Health and Care Professions Council and the Insurance Fraud Bureau.

The biggest changes for us in the last few years have been the introduction of the Official Injury Claim portal and the Covid pandemic. We had to adapt the way we work to integrate with the OIC and that was a big project, which would not have been possible without our small but dedicated in-house team. During the pandemic, we also allowed medical consultations to take place remotely and it was perhaps one of the only areas of work where lockdown actually speeded things up! I think that many medical and legal professionals would prefer for us to go back to that, but it is our view and the view of the medical representatives on our board, that you can’t examine a patient properly without seeing them in person.  

The MoJ recently launched a public consultation seeking views from stakeholders on potential changes to the medical reporting process. These include revising the qualifying criteria, the number and type of MRO and/or DMEs offered to claimants when they search for a provider on MedCo, changes to improve the quality of reports and how medical reports for represented claimants are sourced, the growing use of administration agencies and fixed cost medical reports.  

All government policy should be shaped by those whom it affects and so I hope that as many of you as possible will take part. You can do so online here or via email to [email protected] until the consultation closes at midnight on 10 October.  


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