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Michael Watt: Medical director of Belfast Trust refuses to answer whether anyone has been reprimanded for failure to report concerns


The medical director of the Belfast Health Trust has refused to answer whether anyone within the trust has been reprimanded following failures to escalate concerns from patients of Michael Watt over the last six years.

The Independent Neurology Inquiry published its final report on Tuesday morning. It found that opportunities to address issues in the work of Dr Watt were missed for many years and on multiple occasions due to numerous failures.

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme on Wednesday, Chris Hagan said: "We deserve the opportunity to review the report which we only received yesterday, and if there are criticisms of individuals within that, who were not escalating concerns, then we will deal with that in due process.”

The care of more than 5,000 former patients of Dr Watt had been reviewed, in the biggest recall of patients ever in Northern Ireland.

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The trust chief was pressed on whether any health officials had been formally disciplined, as a result of the negligence which allowed thousands of people to be wrongly diagnosed and receive unnecessary and often harmful treatment.

"We are trying to develop a culture within the Belfast Trust,” he continued.

"What we have tried to do over the past six years is deal with the harm that came to the patients that were treated by Michael Watt, to address the concerns that were raised by that and to put things right for patients.

"I fully acknowledge that a thousand patients had their diagnoses changed. They came to harm and I’m deeply sorry for that.”

The inquiry was critical of the Belfast Trust and said it “could and should have intervened earlier but failed to do so”.

It said a number of doctors had raised concerns, including in 2013 when a registrar brought to the attention of the then clinical lead for neurology that a pregnant woman had been inappropriately diagnosed with epilepsy.

It said concerns were either not escalated or recorded properly and highlighted a “medical culture” which it said, “discouraged concerns being escalated or the questioning of the actions of such a senior consultant”.

In a statement, chief executive of the Belfast Trust Dr Cathy Jack said to the patients of Dr Watt and their families: “The Belfast Trust let you down and many of you have suffered avoidable and unnecessary harm as a result. Whether that was through being given a diagnosis that was not correct, receiving incorrect treatment or medication, or having a procedure you did not need. For that I am truly sorry.

"That is not what the Belfast Trust wants for its hundreds of thousands of patients, cared for in a wide variety of ways by a dedicated staff. It is why that I, and my executive team, are determined to continue to work to improve the governance systems that we have in place to reduce, as far as we possibly can, the risk of something like this happening again.”

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