Belfast Telegraph

Health bosses refuse our requests for information

Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

The Belfast Trust is still refusing to release a report which sparked the Dr Michael Watt patient recall.

Officials refused a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for access to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) document on the grounds that it contains "sensitive personal information".

They argued disclosure "is not necessary to fulfil public interest considerations".

It comes three weeks after the Trust refused another media request from this newspaper on the grounds that the document is "personal" to Dr Watt.

That refusal came despite the Department of Health's top civil servant Richard Pengelly apologising "unreservedly" for the recall and promising "an open and robust process".

The Belfast Telegraph submitted an FOI to determine the cause of the recall, which has caused distress to thousands of patients. However, this request has also been refused on the grounds that it would breach the Data Protection Act.

The response states that the Belfast Trust has yet to agree what action may need to be taken over Dr Watt's discharged patients.

It stated: "The full report has been shared in confidence with Dr Watt, the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Department of Health and the General Medical Council.

"In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we cannot fulfil your request under Section 40(2) - Personal Information Relating to a Third Party."

It added that the report contains personal information relating to Dr Watt.

"Disclosure would breach one or more of the principles of the Data Protection Act," it added. The response states that the report's recommendations and conclusions were "shared in confidence with the Ulster Independent Clinic (UIC) and Hillsborough Private Clinic (HPC), the clinics where Dr Watt was practising at the time restrictions were put in place."

"This was so that those organisations could ensure appropriate action in relation to those patients within Dr Watt's practice at the time of the restrictions," it continued.

"While the Belfast Trust is arranging a recall of Dr Watt's current patients, and the UIC and HPC may be doing similarly, the Trust has not yet agreed with the PHA and RCP the action which may need to be taken in relation to patients who have been discharged.

"At present, where there are concerns from discharged patients, we are asking that these patients first speak with their General Practitioner, who can then (as required) contact the Trust on a dedicated telephone line."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph