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Timeline of Dr Michael Watt's neurology patients' recall crisis - what do we know to date?

Seanín Graham

Dr Michael Watt was one of 10 neurologists at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was based for the past 20 years. He is in his mid-50s and has been repeatedly described as "very well liked" by many of his patients and colleagues.

With more than 3,000 patients on his books in the Belfast trust, he also saw hundreds more in the private sector and treated a wide range of brain-related illnesses, from Multiple Sclerosis to epilepsy, stroke and Parkinson's disease.

He is now at the centre of the north's biggest ever patient recall and has yet to comment on the crisis.

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Dec 2016: Concerns are formally raised about Dr Watt's patients by a Belfast GP. Later that month a small number of his colleagues raise the alarm. An internal review is followed in July 2017 by the trust asking the Royal College of Physicians in London to carry an independent probe.

June 2017: Dr Watt is restricted from seeing any patients but remains on full pay.

Nov 2017: The trust writes to Dr Watt's patients on a waiting list for 'blood patch' treatment, raising questions about whether they "required" it.

April 2018: Final Royal College report is sent to the trust on April 26. It confirms "patient safety concerns" after 48 sample files were probed. The trust refuses to release the report due to "personal" information about Dr Watt.

May 1: Trust recall 2,500 patients to assure them they are receiving best possible care and apologises for "anxiety" caused. A helpline is set up and is inundated with calls.

May 2: The Ulster Independent and Hillsborough Clinics - where Dr Watt worked privately for 20 years - also announce a recall. The Department of Health sets up an investigation into "governance" of outpatient services in the trust with a "particular focus" on neurology. Independent probe also ordered while watchdog is asked to examine those who died under Dr Watt's care over past decade.

May 18: Compensation scheme announced for those who suffer "profound implications" following misdiagnosis - but requires ministerial sign-off. A total of 2,650 patients are to be recalled - a mix of NHS and private. Recall clinics continue.

June: Concerns emerge as some patients learn of misdiagnoses and being on long-term medication they should never have been prescribed.

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