A top GP has supported government plans to bring down the cost of whiplash compensation claims by demanding that claimants will have to be examined by a specialist.
Dr Peter Swinyard, the Family Doctors Association chairman, said there had been a significant rise in patients saying their necks were stiff after a car accident.
Dr Swinyard said that when the “no win, no fee” arrangement was first set up, it had put doctors in an awkward position when diagnosing a specific injury, even when they suspected it might be a fake.
Representative groups for claimants doubt that government plans to form a panel of specialists that would confirm the diagnosis of a whiplash injury before a personal injury claim, would ever be initiated.
Dr Swinyard, whose forum unites at least 1,000 GP practices, said that we make assumptions that people always tell the truth, but there are just those times when what someone says doesn’t really quite fit the real situation..
He said that after 27 years in the profession, he had noticed more people in his surgery who wanted a signature confirming a whiplash injury and he was quite firm that it really is in the public interest to get specialists to have a look at diagnoses. He thinks that those who are really just after compensation should be stopped immediately. The Ministry of Justice has yet to outline the details of how the panel would work. An announcement is expected later this summer.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has stated to ministers that it would support a panel that would offer independent assessments of whiplash claims, but any further diagnosis would not reduce the work load on GPs.
A spokesperson said a reduction in workload would only take place if the insurance company informed the patient not to pay a visit to the GP but be referred to this additional service instead.
It would still be necessary for patients to pay a visit to their GP to get a fit note saying they could return to work.
The chairman, Donna Scully, of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, emphasised that any attempt to increase the diagnosis threshold must not prevent genuine victims from claiming.