Belfast Telegraph

Neurology review delay is not acceptable, says Sinn Fein MLA Sheehan

The Belfast Telegraph’s front page story yesterday
The Belfast Telegraph’s front page story yesterday
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A review into the care of deceased neurology patients in Northern Ireland must not be delayed any longer, an MLA has said.

Sinn Fein's health spokesperson Pat Sheehan made the comments after the Belfast Telegraph revealed a review into the deceased patients of Dr Michael Watt, announced a year ago, had still not started.

"The scale of the neurology recall was unprecedented with it being the largest patient recall ever to take place in the north," he said.

"Undoubtedly this has been a huge challenge for Department of Health and other relevant authorities.

"However, it is not acceptable that a year after the review was called, it has still not got underway - nor has the department or Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) specified a date for its commencement.

"The review needs to get underway as soon as possible and people are entitled to have clarity as to when that will be."

The Department of Health's permanent secretary, Richard Pengelly, announced the RQIA review in May last year.

This is part of a larger investigation into the care delivered by Dr Watt and the oversight and management of neurology services in Northern Ireland.

Work is still underway to establish the terms of reference and details of the review team.

Colin Armstrong, the son of a former patient of Dr Watt, has also expressed his frustration at the lack of information about the review shared by health officials.

"They told me they wanted to delay the review until (September) because they wanted the recall of living patients to be dealt with first, which I thought was quite reasonable. However, there have been no definitive answers since then," he said.

On one occasion, he said he waited 47 days for a response from RQIA, but was only told the review would start in due course.

"It's unbelievably frustrating," he said,

The RQIA has said the review was "a highly complex matter" and they were sensitive to the concerns of those who lost loved ones.

They added that once details like the scope and methodology had been agreed, the terms of reference would be published.

Dr Watt remains suspended from working as a doctor in the UK while the General Medical Council continues its investigation. He remains at the centre of the biggest ever patient recall in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Trust recalled 2,500 patients after an independent review of patient notes, following an independent expert review by the Royal College of Physicians.

In October last year, a further 1,044 patients were also recalled.

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