Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds of us are still in dark, says ex-patient of neurosurgeon in recall probe

Lyndsay Eccleston
Lyndsay Eccleston
Dr Michael Watt
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Belfast woman has criticised the handling of Northern Ireland's biggest patient recall and claimed that hundreds of "extremely ill" people still feel unclear about their diagnosis.

Last year it emerged that around 3,500 patients of consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt were to be recalled over fears they had been misdiagnosed.

The Department of Health had been due to publish an update on the recall in June, but this has been delayed due to "unforeseen circumstances".

Lyndsay Eccleston (34) runs a support group for neurology patients who have been recalled.

She received a blood patch procedure from Dr Watt at the Royal Victoria Hospital in September 2016.

She said Dr Watt made an incorrect diagnosis of spontaneous intracranial hypotension, but still spent over an hour performing a painful spinal procedure.

Ms Eccleston believes her health has badly deteriorated because of this and feels she and others have not received the correct help.

"I'm one of a number of patients given an epidural blood patch by Dr Watt and I think the recall process hasn't properly handled us," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"A lot of patients treated by Dr Watt are still extremely ill, not just blood patch patients, but right across the board.

"I think there should be an option open for those blood patch patients to be seen again and an option to be open to patients who still feel they haven't been properly dealt with through the recall process."

Ms Eccleston said a lot of patients still don't know what is going on.

She added: "One minute they're told one thing and then they're discharged without any knowledge whatsoever and they're expecting tests.

"Patients like myself are extremely ill and can't get access to any care at all."

The Belfast Trust was contacted for a comment yesterday but had yet to respond at the time of going to press.

Ms Eccleston said: "We really need an option for patients, including those not included in the recall, who don't think they've been dealt with. At the very least there should be a helpline for them."

In June the Department of Health said the delay in the report into the recall did not relate to the ongoing care or diagnosis of neurology patients.

"It is important to note that every patient reviewed to date has already been told of any changes to their diagnosis, care and treatment, as has their GP," it said.

It has also been reported that a hearing into the actions of Dr Watt has been delayed until next year.

He is now set to retire on medical grounds.

Dr Watt had been based at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for 20 years and was previously "restricted" from seeing patients in June 2017.

In May last year, it emerged that over 2,500 of his patients were to be recalled for a case review over concerns some may have been misdiagnosed, with 1,044 added five months later.

By January of this year, Dr Watt was temporarily suspended from practising as a doctor in the UK by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service after being referred by the General Medical Council.

While former patients of Dr Watt have come forward to criticise their treatment, many others have spoken out and showed their support.

Some held a rally outside the Royal Victoria Hospital calling for Dr Watt to be reinstated after the allegations were made public.

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