Belfast Telegraph

Former Dr Watt patients 'very anxious' over misdiagnoses fears

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon has said that former patients of Belfast neurologist Dr Michael Watt are extremely worried that they may have been misdiagnosed and are "in the dark" on how to deal with the issue.

The North Belfast MLA called on the Department for Health to set out the pathway and process for clinical reassurance for the thousands of anxious Dr Watt discharge patients who continue to be left completely in the dark over eight weeks after the neurology recall was announced.

In May officials revealed they were contacting around 2,500 NHS patients and just more than 110 private patients after a Royal College of Physicians report raised concerns over Dr Watt.

The patients recalled by the trust were being treated for a wide range of neurological conditions, including epilepsy and MS, and are aged 14 and up.

An independent inquiry has already been launched into the events around the recall.

The Department of Health-commissioned inquiry into the Belfast Trust’s handling of the controversy will be chaired by Brett Lockhart QC.

A panel led by Mr Lockhart will review the process initiated by the trust in December 2016 in relation to the concerns raised about the clinical practice of Dr Watt.

The SDLP deputy leader said that action had to be taken to reassure former patients of Dr Watt.

“On an almost daily basis I am being contacted by very anxious patients who were under the care of Dr Watt, some for many years, who fear they may have been misdiagnosed, over diagnosed or wrongly prescribed and treated during that time," Mrs Mallon said.

"Yet over two months after the Department for Health announced the biggest recall of patients, this increasingly distressed group of neurology patients still have no idea what pathway is open to them.

“Everyone understands the Department’s priority to recall and reassess the patients on Dr Watt’s active caseload but there is another group of patients at the heart of this and it is not acceptable that over eight weeks later they continue to be left completely in the dark with no information from the Department to reassure them."

Mrs Mallon said that patients who had been discharged from Dr Watt's care had been ignored by the Belfast Trust.

“I have on numerous occasions raised the concerns of discharge patients at the highest levels within the Department for Health. The Department has refused to confirm the number of discharge patients involved or provide any detail on how these patients will be reassured and supported. All this protracted silence is serving to do is add to the stresses and anxiety of patients with a condition that deteriorates under stress," the North Belfast MLA said.

“Rightly, patients on this doctor’s active caseload are being recalled. RQIA is carrying out a review of patients who died under this doctor’s care. No one however is communicating with or reassuring the patients who are still alive and were under the care of this doctor in some cases for several years. These patients are being left completely in the dark. In their words, they feel ‘abandoned’. This is not acceptable.

“At the very least the Department must write out in coming days to all of these patients to update them and advise them of the next steps”.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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