Belfast Telegraph

Health Department urged to publish terms of inquiry into patient recall

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust initially ordered the recall of 2,500 patients following a probe into Dr Michael Watt.

Stormont’s health department has been urged to publish the terms of an inquiry into a major patient recall following concerns about the work of a consultant neurologist.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust initially ordered the recall of 2,500 patients following a probe into Dr Michael Watt amid concerns about potential misdiagnosis.

Sinn Fein said it was becoming “frustrated and concerned” at what it claimed was lack of clarity.

It is understood the independent panel inquiry is finalising its own terms of reference.

Health spokesman Pat Sheehan said: “We are today calling on the Department to publish robust terms of reference without any further delay.

“These terms of reference must clearly demonstrate that they will get to the truth of all matters concerning Dr Watts and the role of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Department of Health in the failures that led to the recall.”

The Department of Health-commissioned investigation 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 following concerns raised about the clinical practice of Dr Watt.

It will assess whether any complaints or concerns relating to Dr Watt prior to that date should have provided grounds for “earlier intervention”.

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.

Restrictions were placed on aspects of Dr Watt’s practice after the issues were flagged to the trust. He has not seen patients since June 2017.

Some 2,500 patients have been identified by Belfast Trust as requiring to be reviewed as part of the neurology recall. All of these patients have been written to.

Between May 1 and May 30, 678 health service patients have been seen as part of the recall. A further 1,650 appointments have been booked for people to be seen over coming weeks.

Mr Sheehan added: “Patients deserve answers. The public deserve a transparent, effective health service they can have confidence in, so no stone should be left unturned to get to the truth.”

Those treated by Dr Watt in two private-sector clinics in Northern Ireland are also being reviewed.

The department has also asked the Regulation, Quality and Improvement Authority (RQIA) to examine the records of all patients seen by Dr Watt over the last decade. Its terms of reference were published last month.

The RQIA is also undertaking a review of governance of outpatient services in the Belfast Trust, with a particular focus on neurology services.

The review will be rolled out across all five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

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