Revealed: Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme expects up to 2,500 Covid claims with £6m medical assessment firm appointed

Written by Sam Trendall on 18 May 2022 in News
News

Commercial documents reveal existing scheme for rare instances of severe adverse reactions expects approximately twentyfold increase in usage

Credit: Torsten Simon/Pixabay

The government’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) expects to see a twentyfold increase in the number of claims made this year when compared with pre-pandemic levels, and a new supplier has been appointed to a £6m five-year contract to provide the necessary medical assessments, PublicTechnology can reveal.

The VDPS has been in place since 1979 and exists to provide a “one-off, tax-free payment to successful applicants where, on very rare occasions, vaccination has caused severe disablement”, according to government guidance. Levels of disability are calculated as a percentage and the threshold for qualifying for a payment – of a fixed amount of £120,000 – is 60% disabled.

“This could be a mental or physical disablement and will be based on medical evidence from the doctors or hospitals involved in your treatment,” government advice says.

Citizens can apply to the scheme if they have experienced an adverse reaction to an immunisation against one of 20 diseases. This now includes Covid-19, alongside longer-standing vaccinations against the likes of flu, measles, rubella, smallpox and tetanus. The VDPS is statedly “not a compensation scheme [and] does not prejudice the right of the disabled person to pursue a claim for damages through the courts”.

Until 1 November last year, VDPS was administered by the Department for Work and Pensions; its management has now been transferred to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), working on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Recently released commercial documents reveal that the NHSBSA has appointed claims adjuster Crawford and Company to deliver the medical assessments for Covid-related claims to the VDPS. The firm entered a five-year deal on 20 March worth £6m.

The DWP – and its supplier of choice, the Centre for Health and Disability Assessment, run by employment services firm Maximus – is expected to retain responsibility for managing non-Covid claims until October 2022. 

Thereafter, responsibility for VDPS will transfer in its entirety to NHSBSA and Crawford – as well as health services firm RTW Plus, which is listed as a key subcontractor, providing “oversight [and] assurance of the clinical governance framework” and will also “review and approve the fully vetted panel of experts [and] medical assessors”.

Commercial documents reveal that – excepting the coronavirus vaccine programme – VDPS would ordinarily expect to process about 100 claims each year. As of November, 470 claims for reported Covid vaccine damage had already been made, with about a further 20 being made each week.

In the first year of the contract with Crawford, the claims-management firm will be expected to deliver between 1,500 and 1,800 medical assessments and process these claims.

This means that, by the end of the 2022/23 year, the government expects a total of up to 2,630 people to file a claim for reported severe disablement as a result of a Covid vaccination.

Covid comparisons
While this figure would represent a twenty-fivefold increase on the usual annual tally of about 100 claims to VDPS, it still equates to about one claim for every 54,000 jabs administered – or one for every 20,000 people that have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Since the start of the vaccination programme, a cumulative total 142.6 million doses have so far been delivered to 53.3 million UK citizens. This compares with, for example, 1.7 million flu vaccines administered during the 2019/20 winter that preceded the start of the coronavirus crisis.

From the second year of the contract onwards, NHSBSA indicated that it expects the annual volume of claims to be anywhere in the range of 100 to 1,000. The deal runs until at least March 2027, and two optional one-year extensions could see the engagement continue until 2029.

It is not known how many of the claims are expected to result in a payment, nor how much is expected to be paid out in total or on average. 

A total of 2,000 approved claims would result in payments totalling £240m.

The contract stipulates that Crawford “will be provided with medical claims assessment requests and supporting medical evidence by the buyer for assessment via a digital documentation platform”. 

“The supplier will be expected to acknowledge receipt of the documentation to the buyer within one day of receipt and confirm that all expected records have been received,” it says. “Where transfer of documentation via the digital documentation platform is not feasible, the buyer may consider providing documentation via paper as an exception. 

The document adds: “During the initial period following the service commencement date whereby the supplier will be required to complete the Covid vaccine medical assessment claims, the buyer proposes to send claim assessments to the supplier in a phased approach and would work with the supplier during implementation planning to agree the frequency and volume of cases to be sent – but would expect to send a certain number per week in order to stagger the issuing of cases to the supplier.”

NHSBSA did not provide comment for this story, and Crawford declined to do so.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.

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