AXA, a UK car insurer, has surveyed UK doctors as part of its ongoing campaign to understand the culture of Personal Injury (PI) claims in the UK and reduce the payouts that have led to substantial rises in car insurance premiums.
The surveys say that doctors were under pressure to be part of the GBP 2 billion PI payout, not just through increasing numbers of whiplash patients taking up surgery time but with 7% actually being offered money to refer patients with whiplash injuries.
Over the last month, AXA polled doctors across the UK and an overwhelming 88% of those surveyed said they felt the government should introduce new measures to control whiplash claims for motorists.
22% said they had seen a substantial increase in whiplash patients over the last five years while a further 40% had seen a moderate increase in this period. Over the last year alone 11% had seen substantial increases and 31% moderate increases.
Doctors surveyed believe that on average, 37% of patients who come to them with whiplash as a result of a car accident are fraudulent, while a third of doctors believe this number to be over 50%.
Over half (58%) of the doctors involved in the AXA study signed off 50 percent or less of patients as having a genuine whiplash injury.
One of the biggest problems faced by doctors is the accuracy of whiplash diagnosis - only 7% believe it is very easy to accurately diagnose.
To improve this situation, 78% agree that there should be a more rigorous approach to assessing injuries, while access to more detailed guidelines around whiplash type injuries was desired by 71% of doctors surveyed. Better tests (47%), access to specialist clinics (38%) and expert opinion (39%) were also cited as popular improvements that could be made.
Three in five doctors spent less than 10 minutes assessing a whiplash injury and only 5% agree strongly with the statement that they have enough time to deal with these patients effectively.
Overall doctors have a very negative view of the increase in patients pursuing financial compensation for whiplash injuries. Only 4% believe that it is a positive thing that the UK is now much more equipped to compensate people injured in an accident while 45% believe it has a negative effect on society. However, they were broadly unaware of the actual financial cost to the UK, with 77% underestimating the GBP 2 billion price tag.
AXA has dropped referral fees for PI claims and is leading a campaign to ban these fees across the industry. Earlier this year, the company also carried out a study with Thatcham, a motor research organization, into cars on UK roads and estimated only 34% have head restraints and seats that would be categorized as "good" when it comes to reducing the risk of the driver being the victim of whiplash injuries.
Sarah Vaughan, motor director at AXA insurance [http://www.axainsurance.com ] said, "Our study clearly shows that the medical profession is under real pressure in this area and crying out for more guidance and support to help them deal with a rapidly growing number of whiplash patients."
1. Research carried out by YouGov among 100 UK doctors in July 2012. Total sample size was 101 doctors. Fieldwork was undertaken between July 11th and 18th, 2012. The survey was carried out online.
2. Source: ABI