Supporters of doctor at centre of Belfast recall launch merchandise
A group of patients supporting the under-fire consultant neurologist at the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest patient recall are using branded merchandise in a bid to help spread their message.
More than 400 patients treated by Dr Michael Watt have joined forces in a bid to see him reinstated.
Some have already protested at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, and a petition backing him currently has around 700 signatures.
The recall of patients was announced at the beginning of this month after a year-long examination of patient notes relating to Dr Watt's work by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).
While many patients have voiced their concerns over their treatment, one group of patients has been vocal in its support for Dr Watt, and members are eager to resume their treatment with him.
Most recently they have started a non-profit store via online site Spreadshirt - which designs a range of items - to help spread their message about the consultant they have vowed to stand by.
Group member Terri Mercer from Belfast said: "We have over 400 members.
"It's at the stage where members are ringing me in a really bad way.
"Some of the stories are unbelievable. They are all at the end of their tether.
"They are appalled at the treatment of Dr Watt and want him back so desperately."
The idea for the merchandise came after Ms Mercer got a travel mug printed with the group's 'We Support Dr Watt' logo and posted it online.
Others then voiced interest in it.
She explained: "There has been a big reaction.
"People want to do it because they feel they haven't got the power to speak out - so they are buying merchandise.
"I have a lot of hospital visits and instead of going in all guns blazing I thought I'll just take a travel coffee cup with our logo on it.
"And then I posted it and everyone wanted something - one of the badges or whatever.
"It's their way of shouting without actually shouting."
She continued: "I set it up with a site that does the design and I just give them the logo and people go in and order what they want.
"There have been a lot of orders and it's not cheap, so people are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their point across."
Ms Mercer added: "People are so ill and all they care about is the fact that Dr Watt has been treated like this."
Neurology patients with complex, debilitating and life-altering conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's to motor neurone disease have found themselves caught up in the controversy, and recall of patients.
Last week the Belfast Health Trust revealed that it has reviewed just over a fifth of the patients affected by the recall.
The trust has identified more than 2,500 patients whose cases require review, with 511 carried out as of Thursday.
A further 1,780 people have made appointments.
The trust said it had written to all patients involved in the recall, and is "actively contacting" those who haven't yet responded, to make an appointment "via phone or through their GP".