Key stakeholders reject cautious approach to provision of treatment

Rehabilitation is a key strategy for reducing personal injury claims costs. But it is unfulfilled.

While the announcement of government action on the issue of rehabilitation, in the form of its Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation, was welcomed, Tim Ablett, of FirstAssist and the TUC's Tom Mellish both urged further action on the issue.

The familiar issues of how to encourage the provision of rehabilitation, and whether it should be provided on a no-fault basis also cropped up in the debate.

The issue of rehabilitation divided the speakers, with the Department for Work and Pensions calling for a "leap of faith" on the issue, while also saying more evidence into the business case supporting rehabilitation needed to be gathered, a position supported by Marketform.

Provider First Assist and the TUC called for the widespread provision of rehabilitation, and a quick implementation of these services in a move that would benefit the claimant and reduce the costs of claims.

This debate reflected the diverse desires of the different groups involved in the claims sector, with some key stakeholders wanting rapid forward movement on the issues, while others argue for a more cautious approach.

What was universally welcomed was government attention to the issue of reducing claims costs, and the need to provide a cohesive structure or framework for the provision of rehabilitation services.

Lord Hunt of Wirral hailed Lord Falconer's response to the Better Regulation Task Force as "potentially historic". He said if the government was bold, the opportunity was there to revolutionise the provision of rehabilitation in the UK.

So the provision of rehabilitation is at a cross roads, and the debate seen at the conference over how to encourage it, and whether there is a strong enough business case to support its widespread provision, is set to stay with us over the next few years.

But with such a fractured response to the issue of rehabilitation, and with different groups wanting to move at different speeds, the Department of Constitutional Affairs, which is seeking to lead the way on the issue, certainly has its work cut out.