Editor's Viewpoint: Patient recall raises worrying questions
There is considerable worry among many over the recall of 2,500 patients by the Belfast Health Trust amid concerns about the work of consultant Dr Michael Watt.
The decision to go public in this manner is most unusual and would not have been taken lightly.
This is the outcome of a detailed review of cases following an issue raised by a GP as far back as 2016.
Concerns were also raised by doctors about Dr Watt's management of patients, particularly his treatment plans and diagnoses.
This is something that the public may find difficult to grasp in an area of such medical and technical complexity, but the one crumb of comfort is the fact that the decision to recall people has at last been made.
It is understood that the patients were being treated for a range of neurological conditions including epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
The age range is from 14 upwards.
We do not yet know the full extent of the problem, but this will surely become apparent once the patients have been seen and their condition assessed.
Given the considerable financial and other pressures on the NHS, it is a welcome step that the trust is setting up extra clinics to expedite the review of the cases of those who may be affected.
Indeed, this is the least that can be done to allay the fears of people who have deep worries about what this all means for their health and what the future might hold for them.
However, once the initial shock subsides, the patients will have access to obtain answers to their many questions.
One of the most important of these is: why has it taken the trust so long to realise that there is a significant problem with a consultant's work?
An interview in this newspaper today suggests that concerns were raised as long ago as 2016, hence the justified worry about the long delay before yesterday's announcement.
Patients will also rightly check the degree and validity of the checks and balances that should be in place to monitor performance
One of the hallmarks of medical practice at all levels is the establishment of trust between patients and medical professionals.
People undergoing treatment have concerns enough without having the added burden of worrying about trusting those who are caring for them.