Belfast Telegraph

Former patients of neurologist Dr Watt may take legal action against Belfast Trust

By Victoria Leonard

A Belfast solicitor says he has been engaged by three former patients of suspended Belfast neurologist Dr Michael Watt.

Ciaran Moynagh said that, depending on the outcome of further investigations, legal action may be taken against the Belfast Trust on the grounds of clinical medical negligence.

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

At the end of last month, it was announced that an additional 1,044 former patients of Dr Watt would be recalled.

It is the largest patient recall in Northern Ireland's history.

Mr Moynagh, a partner in Phoenix Law, said he is in the "very early stages" of acting on behalf of three of Dr Watt's former patients.

"I will be consulting with clients with a view to issuing preliminary letters of claim to the Belfast Trust to indicate the circumstances of the clients, what happened, and to request medical notes," he said.

"The next step after that would be to get an independent expert, probably from outside of this jurisdiction, to do a report.

"The Belfast Trust has a duty of care and it must properly monitor its doctors and nurses."

Mr Moynagh said the patients had suffered stress as a result of being informed during the recall process that they may have been misdiagnosed.

"It is shocking," he added.

"They think they are getting the best treatment, they are compliant with a course of medication, they are reviewed, sometimes on a biannual basis, and then to be told that they may not have what they were previously diagnosed with causes a lot of anxiety.

"This is a very specialised area, the medicine is complex and patients put their faith in the trust and in the person providing their care.

"Very few people are going to go for a second opinion or question what they are being told, so they are reliant on the trust to give sound advice.

"When that is questioned it can lead to them calling everything into question.

"They are left asking, 'Should I take the tablets or not, and how do they affect me?'

"It puts them and their families under a lot of stress - it can affect their personal lives and relationships, their employment.

"They may try to limit their lives to try and stay healthy, so it can limit them in other areas of their lives."

An independent inquiry, chaired by Brett Lockhart QC, has been established to review the recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Trust.

The terms of reference involve investigating the circumstances which led to the patient recall for the period between November 2016 and May 2018, and to evaluate corporate governance procedures and arrangements within the Belfast Trust.

It will also review the Belfast Trust's handling of relevant complaints or concerns, identified or received prior to November 2016, and participation in processes to maintain standards of professional practice, including appraisals.

The inquiry will then make recommendations to the Department of Health.

Last month, the inquiry announced the details of its public engagement process for patients, former patients, relatives of patients and health care workers who have had experience of neurology services in the Greater Belfast area before or since 2008 up until June this year.

Asked last month whether the independent inquiry had been in contact with Dr Watt regarding him giving evidence to it, a spokesperson said it "is not appropriate for an ongoing inquiry to detail which individuals will or will not be invited to attend the inquiry".

Belfast Telegraph

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