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Doctor linked to biggest patient recall in Northern Ireland's history to retire - reports

Belfast neurologist, Dr Michael Watt
Belfast neurologist, Dr Michael Watt

A consultant neurologist linked to the biggest patient recall in Northern Ireland's history is set to retire on medical grounds, it has been reported.

Dr Michael Watt, who has been based at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for 20 years, was previously "restricted" from seeing patients in June 2017.

In May last year it emerged that more than 2,500 of his patients, including children, were to be recalled for a case review, following concerns some may have been misdiagnosed.

Five months later, it was revealed that a further 1,044 of Dr Watt's patients were also being recalled.

In January, Dr Watt was temporarily suspended from practising as a doctor in the UK by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, following a referral by the General Medical Council (GMC).

An investigation by the GMC is ongoing.

The Irish News has now reported that he is set to retire on medical grounds.

When asked to confirm the current status of Dr Watt's employment, a Belfast Trust spokesperson said: "The Belfast Trust can confirm that Dr Michael Watt is an employee of the Trust and continues to be restricted from all clinical duties; he is not seeing patients.

"Any concerns regarding the conduct, clinical performance or health of a doctor are managed within the relevant Trust and Department of Health procedures. The Trust is unable to make any further comment at this time as to do so would be in breach of its obligations under data protection.”

A report into the patient recall linked to Dr Watt was due to be published by the Department of Health in June, however it was postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances".

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon, who has lobbied the Belfast Trust on behalf of former patients of Dr Watt, said she is aware of "speculation" about his potential retirement.

"The thousands of patients at the heart of this scandal need to know if this speculation is correct and they will have questions and concerns about the timing," she said.

"More than a year on, patients and families are still waiting for the truth about what happened, why it happened and how it was ever allowed to happen."

Back in May, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that a review into the deceased patients of Dr Watt, which was announced a year previously, had still not started.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, who are responsible for the review, said it was "a highly complex matter" and they were sensitive to the concerns of those who lost loved ones.

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