Healthcare news

Dr Michael Watt: Restrictions placed on consultant at centre of patient recall

Seanín Graham

RESTRICTIONS have been placed on a consultant at the centre of a major patient recall.

It emerged last week that 2,500 patients of Dr Michael Watt are to be reviewed after an independent report into his work found "safety concerns" around diagnosis and treatment plans.

Following a referral from the General Medical Council, the Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service has now placed conditions on the consultant neurologist's fitness to practise.

The conditions, which came into effect yesterday and will remain until at least November 8 2019, include prohibitions on him working as a locum or in any private clinic.

Dr Watt must also be closely supervised in all of his posts.

A telephone helpline for concerned patients was set up last week by the Belfast health trust, with special evening and weekend clinics taking place over the next 12 weeks.

Dr Watt, who was based at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for almost 20 years, had more than 3,000 patients on his books.

He also worked at Hillsborough Private Clinic and the Ulster Independent Clinic.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly yesterday held discussions with the two private clinics.

“I was very pleased to receive assurances from both organisations that they are focussed on rapidly identifying the active patient list in respect of Dr Watt’s practice with them," he said.

“Both Hillsborough Private Clinic and the Ulster Independent Clinic gave us an assurance that they will endeavour to ensure that all their patients are reviewed within the same 12-week target timescale established by Belfast trust for its patients."

Meanwhile, former patients of Dr Watt are due to stage a sit-out today at the Royal Victoria Hospital in support of him.

While some patients have spoken publicly about concerns around his care, others have also praised him for transforming their lives.

Dr Watt has not seen patients since last June but remains a trust employee and is on full pay.

Earlier this week an online petition was set up by a group who say their care has been compromised since his removal.

They plan to forward the petition to the trust's medical director, Dr Cathy Jack, and the General Medical Council.

One patient, Rhonda O'Neill (44), from Magherafelt, who suffers from a rare and debilitating neurological condition, is among 200 people who have signed it.

"I have been seeing Dr Watt for eight years, he was the first person to diagnose me and he was excellent. He always took the time to listen and even referred me to specialists in London," she said.

"Our care will suffer without him."

The group will assemble outside the Broadway entrance to the Royal today.

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