Northern Ireland news

Former patients of Dr Michael Watt 'left in the dark amid fears of misdiagnosis'

More than 2,500 patients were recalled by the Belfast Health Trust
Áine Quinn

SDLP deputy leader Nicola Mallon has said thousands of former patients of Belfast neurologist Dr Michael Watt feel "left in the dark" amid fears they have been misdiagnosed.

The North Belfast MLA called for the Department of Health to set out the pathway and process for clinical reassurance for thousands of anxious Dr Watt discharge patients.

In May, it was announced that the Belfast Health Trust would recall more than 2,500 patients following an independent review of clinical notes relating to the neurologist's work.

It is the largest patient recall in Northern Ireland's history.

An independent inquiry has been launched, which will be chaired by barrister Brett Lockhart.

Ms Mallon said the department must take action for the "anxious" former patients.

"On an almost daily basis I am being contacted by very anxious patients who were under the care of Dr Watt, some for many years, who fear they may have been misdiagnosed, over diagnosed or wrongly prescribed and treated during that time.

"Yet over two months after the department announced the biggest recall of patients, this increasingly distressed group of neurology patients still have no idea what pathway is open to them.

She added that she had repeatedly raised concerns of discharge patients, but the department had not confirmed the number of patients involved.

"All this protracted silence is serving to do is add to the stresses and anxiety of patients with a condition that deteriorates under stress," she added.

"Rightly, patients on this doctor's active caseload are being recalled. RQIA is carrying out a review of patients who died under this doctor’s care. No one however is communicating with or reassuring the patients who are still alive and were under the care of this doctor in some cases for several years. These patients are being left completely in the dark. In their words, they feel ‘abandoned’. This is not acceptable."

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