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BMA tackles lawyers over medical reports

The BMA has stepped up a campaign to stop solicitors bombarding GPs with requests for reports on patients.

Practices have seen a massive increase in workload fulfilling lawyers' demands as a result of the explosion in no-win, no-fee personal injury cases.

The rise has led GPs to

accuse solicitors of trawling through patient records on 'fishing trips' before deciding whether to take on a case.

The BMA said GPs were being exploited as they could only charge a £50 fee for producing medical reports under the Data Protection Act, which did not take account of the work involved.

The association last week held the first of several planned forums with lawyers, medicolegal reporting organisations, insurers, Government and the Civil Justice Council to discuss ways of cutting the burden on GPs.

Dr Peter Holden, chair of the BMA professional fees committee and a GPC negotiator, said solicitors, insurers and claims handlers were 'abusing the intentions' of the Data Protection Act.

He said GPs should be paid a 'proper and appropriate' rate of up to £500 for providing full medicolegal reports, but are trapped as they cannot legally refuse to respond to a request to copy patient notes under the Act.

'The best I get then is £50 and it can take 45 minutes of my time and 30 minutes for my secretary,' he said.

'Before no-win, no-fee we had two requests for access. In my practice in the 12 months following we had 78, 77 of which came from solicitors.'

Dr Holden said medicolegal organisations did not understand how GPs worked.

'They don't realise we are independent and have overheads and we are expensive because doctors are the only people who get the money.'

Somerset LMC medical secretary Dr Harry Yoxall said GPs were worried demand would rise further. He said: 'It's time-consuming and stops you doing your core job.'

The Association of British Insurers said it appreciated the GPs' concerns: 'It's certainly not insurers' intention to exploit any Act and it's not in their interests to ask for superfluous information.'

By Ian Cameron

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