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Industrial Diseases

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the reliability of the medical assessment procedure in assessing claims under the coal miners' compensation scheme. (229218)

Respiratory specialists and experienced medical practitioners undertake medical assessments in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vibration white finger respectively. It is important to take steps to ensure consistency of diagnosis and this is done by providing training specific to each condition and also by auditing the Medical Assessment Process assessments. Specialists are trained to understand each assessment form and its objectives to establish the level of disability caused by chronic pulmonary disease or vibration white finger, assess the impact of any other condition and calculate how much of the disability is due to working in coal mines. Required qualifications for the specialist are set out in each claims handling agreement.

Processes are in place, agreed between both the claimants’ solicitors and the Department, to facilitate the independent auditing of the medical assessment process. The audits are carried out firstly by the lead doctor (who delivers the training) and then by the Medical Reference Panel. The audits are done on a monthly basis and look at a sample of six reports from each respiratory specialist or experienced medical practitioner.

A quality review is undertaken by an independent organisation for medical assessments conducted under the Coal Health Compensation schemes. The Medical Review Panel is also available if any solicitor wish to dispute the medical findings in particular claims.