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Former patients tell differing stories of contact with medic


Janette McDonald

Janette McDonald

Louise Long

Louise Long

Terri Mercer

Terri Mercer

Janette McDonald

Former patients were yesterday divided on the treatment they had received from Dr Michael Watt.

Many who contacted the Belfast Telegraph said they feared they had lost valuable time in getting the correct treatment, while others defended him and said the neurologist had saved their lives.

Janette McDonald (53), from Belfast, has been bed-bound for seven years and has made two formal complaints against Dr Watt. She said: "I had back surgery and had a very bad infection which makes me very dizzy and causes bad headaches.

"I was referred to Dr Watt and he was supposed to refer me to Great Ormond Street Hospital for treatment four years ago.

"Now I've been bed-bound for seven years and I feel he's wasted three years of my life.

"I've put two formal complaints in against him and I felt nothing really was done."

She called the recall of 2,500 patients yesterday "atrocious" and said her own circumstances had taken a great toll on her life.

Dr Mark Mitchelson addresses the media after the Belfast Health Trust recalled 2,500 patients.

"I'm on anti-depressants, my father's on kidney dialysis and I haven't been able to support him.

"I'm 53 and had my 50th birthday in bed, I've had no life.

"I used to run a company so I'm not stupid, I've fought and fought to get better and there's been times I felt I didn't want to fight anymore.

"I'm waiting now with trepidation to see what they're going to do with me next."

Electrician Sean Cochrane (51), from Ballymena, booked a private appointment with Dr Watt in March last year. He said the consultant told him he had a trapped nerve in his neck, but a second opinion two weeks later revealed a bleed in the brain.

"I was gobsmacked when I heard how many patients had been recalled," he said.

"I explained my symptoms and Dr Watt told me I had a trapped nerve in my neck. I just thought for paying £180 is that all you're telling me, do I not even get a scan?

"That's what disappointed me. I couldn't let it go and went for a second opinion, then they sent me for a scan and found the bleed in the brain."

But other patients who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph defended the consultant. Louise Long (51), from Belfast, said: "Dr Watt saved my life when I saw him privately in 2003. His diagnosis was spot-on and because of him I had a malignant tumour removed.

"I was told if I hadn't done that I would have been dead within six months.

"It was him that championed my cause when no one else would listen to me.

"In 2014-15 I saw him again privately and he picked up I had quite severe scoliosis. He again championed my cause and was able to put me on appropriate medication for that."

Ms Long said she was "totally floored" when she was told how many patients had been recalled.

"I also feel a great deal of empathy for all those patients and the chronic anxiety they must be feeling," she continued.

"It's the same anxiety I felt in 2014 but the only person who got me through that was Dr Watt.

"I feel the Belfast Trust are dealing with it properly with the recall and having set up a helpline quickly, but I'm sure those patients are in acute anxiety."

Terri Mercer (48), from Belfast, said Dr Watt had saved her life too. "Last year I had a cerebral leak, it was literally unbearable. I can't tell you how much pain I was in," she explained.

"Dr Watt booked me in for treatment straight away and it worked immediately. He gave me his mobile number in case I had any other symptoms when I got home."

She continued: "Many consultants have a god complex but Dr Watt wasn't like that at all. He really cares about his patients.

"I'm worried now I'll have to go with another consultant and change a treatment that's working for me."

A spokesperson for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said they could not comment on individual patients.

Belfast Telegraph