With the legal system having to rapidly adjust to change amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, MedCo has now approved medical examinations taking place remotely. The Board's unanimous decision to lift the ban on remote examinations will continue until further notice. It is made clear that examinations must be by video; voice only examinations "will not be acceptable in any circumstances."
Remote medical examinations have not previously been permitted. However, in order to align with the government's advice on social distancing and in light of the "current extraordinary circumstances" the ban is suspended, but will be reinstated at the earliest possible opportunity. Claimants who already have appointments should have the option to rearrange to a later date for a face to face examination or be offered a remote examination.
MedCo has issued guidelines which must be adhered to if medical examinations are to be conducted remotely. These include:
- No claimant should be pressured into agreeing to being examined by video link – remote examinations are only an option.
- Where claimants insist on face to face examinations, the medical expert should contact the claimant directly to inform them of the risks and timeframe.
- Medical experts need to protect themselves and, if claimants attend a face to face examination, they should assess whether the claimant poses a risk.
- If a claimant does not want to accept a remote video examination, the expert may defer the face to face examination.
- Confidentiality must be maintained. If the expert cannot meet the requirements for client confidentiality a remote examination should not be offered.
- If a claimant wishes to undergo a remote medical examination, they should seek their legal representative's advice before agreeing. The legal representative should ensure their client is made aware of potential risks. MedCo note there may be a higher risk of a compensator challenging the report, and possible need for a further report.
Regarding the recording of medical examinations guidance is that they should be "wherever possible". Any recordings made should be retained until 30 days after the settlement of any claim. Insurers should not accept any reports where these safeguards are unavailable. In addition, it is likely that hospital and GP surgeries will not be able to process requests for medical records for some time. Claimant and defendant representatives will need to consider claims on a case by case basis as to whether medical examinations can proceed without medical records or whether they should be provided to the expert (when obtained) for consideration after the examination.
Since the ban on remote examinations being lifted, MedCo has reported that medical experts have attempted to increase the number of reports they can provide by offering Skype examinations in postcode addresses outside of their registered practising addresses. MedCo has confirmed that it was not their intention to "provide a convenient means for medical report providers to expand their practices." Further action will be taken against any user in the event of any identified abuse in breach of the MedCo Rules and/or Ethics policy.
Full details of MedCo's Remote Examination Conditions can be found here.
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