Northern Ireland news

Dr Michael Watt: Patient questions when health chiefs first had concerns

A former patient of consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt who underwent a 'blood patch' procedure. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanin Graham

CONFIDENTIAL notes requested by a patient at the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest NHS recall reveal a senior doctor was "reviewing" work of Dr Michael Watt more than six months before health chiefs said they first became aware of problems.

The files of the 35-year-old woman show that in April 2016 a consultant at the Belfast health trust was assessing a controversial treatment carried by the neurologist.

Leaked health service correspondence has also revealed that "epidural blood patch" treatment - where blood is taken from the arm and injected into the back to treat severe headaches - is what sparked the investigation into Dr Watt's work.

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Trust officials have repeatedly said they only became aware of problems about the medic's care in December 2016 after a whistleblower GP came forward.

They have also refused to state what exactly triggered an independent probe into his work, which led to the unprecedented recall of more than 3,000 neurology patients.

In an interview in today's Irish News, one patient - who had to pay the health service to access her own notes - describes how her life has "fallen apart" since having the blood patch treatment two years ago.

"It's clear that a second colleague of Dr Watt's was reviewing his treatment of me much earlier than December 2016," she said.

"The blood patch procedure should have taken one hour but took 10. I suffered seizures during it and for months afterwards.

"I went from having from having a great job and about to start a family to someone on 35 pills a day and housebound. I still don't have a diagnosis and I don't know what damage has been done to me with all the drugs."

SDLP assembly member Nichola Mallon

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon represented the patient at a meeting with trust officials last month.

She highlighted her constituent's concerns but said she has been met with a "wall of silence".

"We want to know who authorised Dr Watt's colleague to review his work prior to December 2016 and what prompted it. There's been no answers."

A spokeswoman for the Belfast trust said: "We are aware of the meeting you refer to and we plan to meet with the patient whose notes were raised by Ms Mallon on the patient's behalf."

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