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People affected by Dr Michael Watt neurology scandal urged to air views in independent probe

Pictured at the launch of the Independent Neurology Inquiry are L-R Brett Lockhart QC and Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Seanín Graham

NEUROLOGY patients with concerns about the service are being urged to make their views known as part of an independent inquiry into Northern Ireland's biggest patient recall.

Questionnaires have been released for those affected patients in the greater Belfast area, five months after the scandal first broke when more 2,500 former patients of consultant Dr Michael Watt were recalled due to "safety concerns" around his work.

Brett Lockhart QC, who heads up the independent Inquiry panel and his co-panellist Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor, yesterday announced the launch of a "public engagement" process, which is also keen to hear from relatives of patients and healthcare workers who've had contact with neurology services over the past decade.

Mr Lockhart said he wanted it to be a "meaningful process". It will last for the next eight weeks and will close on December 7.

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"Whilst this is not a statutory Inquiry we have been determined to interpret our remit in a manner which takes into account the voices of patients and others who have had experience of neurology services within the Greater Belfast area," he said.

"At the very outset of our appointment I made it clear that we would examine the most appropriate mechanism for engaging with the important voice of patients and core users of the Neurology services," he said.

The questionnaires can be downloaded from the Inquiry website or may be accessed through the Neurological Charities Alliance or from the offices of Assembly members.

Stroke patients as well as those suffering from epilespy, Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis have been among the recalls. In some cases, there have been concerns around misdiagnoses and treatment plans.

While many patients have criticised their care under Dr Watt, others have campaigned for him to be re-instated.

Official complaints about the senior neurologist were first made to the trust in December 2016 by a Belfast GP, while then led to an independent probe.

While Dr Watt was stopped from seeing patients in June last year, he was not suspended and remains on full on pay.

David Galloway, Director of the MS Society in Northern Ireland described the past five months as a "difficult and anxious time" for patients and families who have "many unanswered questions".

He added: "I hope that the Independent Inquiry and current service reviews will provide people with the answers they need and crucially, that learning from these events will be used to reshape neurology services for the better. Patients deserve nothing less."

The inquiry website is www.neurologyinquiry.org.uk. They can be contacted on 0300 200 7829.

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