Northern Ireland news

Neurologist at centre of patient recall removed from medical register

Consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt.
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A neurologist at the centre of Northern Ireland’s largest ever patient recall has been voluntarily removed from the medical register.

A number of separate inquiries are taking place into the work of Dr Michael Watt after thousands of his patients were recalled in 2018 amid concerns about misdiagnosis of brain conditions.

A notice on the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) website said that it had convened in private to consider an application by Dr Watt to be removed from the medical register.

The notice on the MPTS site said: “The tribunal convened in private to consider a voluntary erasure application on behalf of Dr Watt, prior to the case commencing.

“Having heard evidence in relation to exceptional circumstances under the guidance on making decisions on voluntary erasure applications and advising on administrative erasure, the tribunal determined to accept Dr Watt’s application for voluntary erasure.

“Dr Watt’s name was therefore voluntarily erased from the medical register with effect from 01/10/2021.”

This means that he can no longer practise medicine in the UK.

Dr Watt formerly worked at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This will be another distressing day in what has been a long sequence of distressing days for former patients of Dr Watt and their families.

“They are very much in my thoughts today.

“There was an expectation of a full GMC (General Medical Council) hearing and there will be profound disappointment that this is not happening. I very much share that disappointment.

“I can assure patients and families that I am determined to do everything in my power to repair the damage inflicted on public confidence by the neurology recall.”

An independent neurology inquiry was established in 2018 amid concerns about Dr Watt’s work. It was given the status of a public inquiry in 2020.

In an update on the work of the public inquiry in July, its chairman Brett Lockhart QC confirmed that the neurologist would not be giving evidence.

A witness summons was served on Dr Watt in March 2021 but his legal representatives responded with a medical report indicating his unfitness to appear.

North Belfast SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said while it was welcome Dr Watt had been removed from the medical register, she would have preferred a public tribunal to have taken place rather than a voluntary application for removal.

She added: “While proceedings took place behind closed doors in this instance, I remain hopeful that the public inquiry into the work of Dr Watt will allow the exact facts to be established, patients to have their say about the enormous impact on their lives and bring them the answers and closure they crave after the harrowing experience they have endured.”

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