Northern Ireland news

Dr Watt recall patient horrified as medic reviewing scandal faces probe

Danielle O'Neill, a former patient of Dr Michael Watt who is now under the care of Dr Hany El-Naggar, said she is "re-traumatised" after learning Dr El-Naggar is facing misconduct allegations. Picture Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

A CONSULTANT appointed to reassess patients caught up in the Dr Michael Watt recall scandal is facing serious professional misconduct charges relating to care failings.

In a development that has left neurology patients "re-traumatised", it has emerged that Dr Hany El-Naggar is under investigation by the medical regulator following a string of allegations linked to his work in a Nottingham hospital five years ago.

A  five-day hearing is due to begin next week, with the case centring on a "number of failures" concerning the interpretation of a CT brain scan - resulting in claims the neurologist "inappropriately withheld" a drug treatment despite a patient's "deteriorating condition" and advice by other medics to administer it.

Dr El-Naggar continues to see Belfast trust recall patients, with trust chiefs last night saying they do not believe the General Medical Council (GMC) probe impacts on his review work - and insisting "patient safety remains our highest priority".

The medic, who specialises in epilepsy research and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was one of several locum doctors employed by the trust in 2018 to examine former patients of neurologist Dr Michael Watt, following an unprecedented recall sparked by "safety concerns".

Almost 3,000 patients were reassessed due to fears they may have been misdiagnosed or given the wrong drug treatments, with a public inquiry now ordered into the crisis.

Consultant neurologist Dr Hany El-Naggar faces professional misconduct allegations relating to care in an English hospital five years ago. He was employed by the Belfast trust in 2018 to review former patients of Dr Michael Watt following an unprecedented recall

Belfast woman Danielle O'Neill (38) said her life "fell apart" after undergoing an invasive procedure known as an epidural blood patch and being prescribed the wrong drug treatments while under Dr Watt's care.

She was one of the first patients reviewed by Dr El-Naggar, and said news of his misconduct allegations had left her "absolutely devastated".

"It has re-traumatised me and will re-traumatise so many other recall patients who are under the care of this doctor. It's just brought it all back again after the Michael Watt case with the anxiety involved in that and all the questions that arose," Ms O'Neill said.

"I am still under Dr El-Naggar's care and see him every six months, he is very good. So when I learned he is also facing charges, I was in disbelief.

"Even though I am not directly involved in the Nottingham case, I just thought how could the Belfast trust place us under the care of another doctor that is under investigation?"

While complaints about Dr El-Naggar's work were investigated by his professional body, the General Medical Council (GMC), the misconduct hearings will be overseen by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

The MPTS panel will probe allegations relating to July 23, 2016, when it is reported he "made a number of failures in relation to the interpretation of 'Patient A's' CT brain scan."

Consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt is at the centre of Northern Ireland's biggest patient recall. A public inquiry has been ordered into the scandal

"It is also alleged that he inappropriately disagreed with the radiologist’s finding, overruled the opinion of the radiologist and arranged for it to be relayed to Patient A/Patient A’s family that 'thrombolysis is not recommended'...," according to the MPTS.

"It is further alleged that Dr El-Naggar failed to attempt to resolve his disagreement and failed to reconsider his opinion following a telephone call with a registrar on 24 July 2016, despite Patient A’s worsening presentation. It is alleged that Dr El-Naggar inappropriately withheld clinically indicated thrombolysis treatment on 23 July 2016 and 24 July 2016."

Hundreds of Dr Watt's former patients, including those suffering with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, stroke, epilepsy and Motor Neurone Disease, have sought legal advice after discovering they may have been given the wrong drugs for several years following an "unsecure" diagnosis.

Ms O'Neill is among those who is mounting a legal challenge.

Her solicitor, Niall O'Hare, said that while the outcome of the GMC probe must be awaited, he was concerned that allegations made against Dr El-Naggar are "strikingly similar to those levied against Dr Michael Watt".

The Belfast trust was unable to provide information on the number of neurology patients currently under the medic's care.

When asked to address concerns about the misconduct allegations, a spokesman said: "We are aware of an upcoming hearing regarding a consultant who assisted in the review of recalled patients in 2018.

 

"The case in question took place outside of Northern Ireland and is known to us. We were, and remain, satisfied that this did not impact upon the specific area of work the consultant was asked to undertake as part of the Neurology Recall or the ongoing follow up of patients in his care. Patient safety remains our highest priority."

Dr Watt is no longer an employee of the trust. It is understood he retired on medical grounds last year.

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