Belfast Telegraph

Dr Watt recall: Patients deliver letter demanding openness and transparency from officials

Deborah Cassidy and Danielle O'Neill, patients of Dr Watt hand in a letter to Richard Pengelly at Stormont Castle Buildings on November 12th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Deborah Cassidy and Danielle O'Neill, patients of Dr Watt hand in a letter to Richard Pengelly at Stormont Castle Buildings on November 12th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Patients of the doctor at the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest ever recall have delivered a letter calling for more openness and transparency from the Department of Health over the matter.

However, they expressed disappointment the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, was not available to accept the letter they hand delivered to Stormont's Castle Buildings.

Around 3,500 former patients of Dr Michael Watt have been recalled to assess whether they received the appropriate diagnoses and treatment.

The letter delivered on Tuesday states that Dr Watt's patients were promised openness and transparency throughout the recall which they claim has yet to be fulfilled.

They also requested a meeting with Mr Pengelly for Friday, November 29.

Danielle O'Neill, who handed in the letter to the department, was a patient of Dr Watt. She said it felt “very disrespectful” that they were not afforded the opportunity to speak to Mr Pengelly.

The patients, who gathered outside the department's headquarters holding a sign which read, '#TIMEFORANSWERS', were joined by MLAs Pat Sheehan, Nichola Mallon and Gerry Carroll.

Ms Mallon said patients felt they had no other option but to hold their protest saying Mr Pengelly should have accepted their letter in person.

“These patients will continue to fight until they get answers," she said.

Sinn Fein's Mr Sheehan added: “It was the department who created the expectation that the interim outcome of the report would be made public.

“They created that expectation and the responsibility rests with them now to bring that out and let the patients and public see the extent of people who have been harmed and have received new diagnoses during the recall.”

People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll said patients had been met with a "wall of silence".

"If patients are failed by the health service then there needs to be openness, transparency and swift action taken by the department," he said.

The Department of Health in a statement said: "The request to the permanent secretary was made at very short notice and he was understandably therefore unavailable to personally accept the letter. Departmental colleagues received the letter on the Permanent Secretary’s behalf.

"The Department has made clear its own frustration at the delay in publication of the neurology recall outcomes report. This has been due to circumstances beyond its control.

"Political representatives were provided with a detailed and confidential briefing on the recall, including the specific reasons for the delay in publication, in September."

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