Independent Nurse Led Triage for Whiplash Claims
In his autumn statement the Chancellor announced that he planned to raise the small claims limit to 5k and abolish compensation for whiplash claims in an attempt to reduce fraud. He has said that any savings should be passed down to each tax paying driver reducing their premiums by approximately £50 per annum.
Following his announcement there have been numerous articles focusing on fraud exposer, arguments regarding rights for access to justice and concerns whether the costs will actually be passed on to the tax payer. Their hasn’t been any real focus on how if implemented properly this would be beneficial to those who have genuinely been injured.
Since its infancy rehabilitation has been a hot potato in personal injury with many of those implementing it struggling to fully understand the concept for which it was intended, i.e putting the injured person back in to, or as near as possible the position they were in prior to an accident happening.
If asked most genuine claimant’s given the choice would rather not have had the accident in the first instance or having had the accident would prefer to have the treatment they need so they can recover and get back to normal as quickly as possible. Waiting for a doctor’s appointments, not being able to work whilst having a mortgage to pay, speaking to solicitors and attending medical examinations for compensation for some can be as stressful as the actual accident.
I have lost count of the number of people who have told me they have been involved in an accident that was over 2 years down ago and who are still waiting for medical reports before funding for their treatment will be made available, whilst others say they have received their compensation but are continuing to have problems with the site they injured.
In society when someone is taken ill or has been injured, their first port of call is a health centre, whether this is a walk in centre, a GP’s practice or Accident and Emergency. On admission they are usually assessed by an independent triage nurse, who has studied for at least 3 years at university and in clincal settings, then has worked for a minimum of 6 months in the NHS. The nurse uses their skills and knowledge to make an informed decision about the patients needs for treatment and then refers them on if appropriate, to the most suitable expert for their needs, whether this is a physiotherapist or a doctor. This nurse then steps aside leaving the treatment to those suitable qualified.
Whiplash in most cases can be treated with analgesia and advice as it is usually short lived and self-limiting so their is no need for further intervention as it gets better on its own and the individual can return to their pre-accident lifestyle. However in a small number of cases the symptoms persist and physiotherapy intervention is needed.
Whilst in personal injury the needs of the injured person should always be at the forefront of any claim, if the assessment of a client’s needs is not carried out by an independent organisation, the financial implications that surround compensation may cloud their judgement when considering rehabilitation.
Therefore it seems obvious that the solution for personal injury fraud is to replicate the National Health Service’s tried and tested model using independent nurse led triage for all clients. Surely this would guarantee that all claimant’s were being assessed holistically by an appropriately skilled person from day one and treatment given only to those who need it.
Whilst triage has been recognised as they way forward in the 2015 Rehabilitation Code the code is not mandatory, so perhaps the Chancellor needs to review the code and work with experts who in this field to make it a mandatory part of the pre action protocols?