Belfast Royal Victoria patients plan hospital protest in support of Dr Watt
A group of patients treated by a neurologist at the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest patient recall are to take a protest in support of Dr Michael Watt to the doorstep of the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH).
While many have been critical of the consultant who sparked fears over misdiagnosis, one group of loyal patients say his treatment by Belfast Health Trust has been shameful.
The trust has said it is "truly sorry" for having to recall 2,500 patients after a probe into the work of Dr Watt and a review of patient notes by the trust and the Royal College of Physicians.
The consultant is currently not treating patients but is still an employee, the trust said.
A Facebook group - Voice in support of Dr Michael Watt - has been set up to support the beleaguered neurologist and members plan to gather outside the RVH on Thursday afternoon as they step up their campaign.
Many patients say they have been left in the dark as they seek alternative care for life-threatening conditions. They will be asking other former patients, colleagues of Dr Watt and members of the public to sign their petition calling for his immediate re-instatement so they can continue their treatment locally.
Rhonda O'Neill (44), from Magherafelt, had been under Dr Watt's care for eight years when he was removed from his position last year.
She said she has had little guidance from the trust about her ongoing treatment. She now has to go to London to visit consultants on a regular basis as she struggles with a rare neurological condition - autonomic neuropathy.
She will be seeking signatures for a petition supporting Dr Watt.
"We want to let the Belfast Health Trust know our concerns in a dignified way," she said.
"But since a few former patients got together for support we've been inundated with messages of support for the treatment received from Dr Watt.
"I have been pushed from pillar to post since Dr Watt was removed, so much so that I now have to travel to London every few weeks to get the treatment I need.
"And from all the people who have spoken to us over the last few days I know we're not the only ones who were left panicking over further treatment. We've had no guidelines and little advice on how we should go about continuing the treatments which, for many of us, are life changing.
"Receiving a letter of apology in the post last week completely out of the blue was gut-wrenching for all of us who were relying on Dr Watt for treatment. My condition can flare up at any time and I need to know where to go, who to contact, what to do."
Ms O'Neill said she and others "feel cast adrift".
"That's why we want as many people as possible to voice their concerns over the way this situation has been handled by the trust. The reaction has not been geared to help the patients who are in need of ongoing care.
"We have found that there are so many people with positive stories to tell who have now been neglected. The process isn't geared up to help the patients at all."