Northern Ireland news

Former Dr Watt patient 'insulted' after attempt to suspend legal challenge

Danielle O'Neill, a former patient of Dr Michael Watt, outside the High Court in Belfast last month following the first stage in her legal challenge to overturn a tribunal decision that allowed the medic to remove himself from the medical register
Seanín Graham

A FORMER patient of Dr Michael Watt has expressed her outrage following attempts by his lawyers to suspend a legal challenge she mounted over his removal from the medical register.

Belfast woman Danielle O'Neill (39) will attend the High Court this morning after an application by the consultant neurologist's legal team requesting that "no further steps are taken" in her bid to overturn a decision by a tribunal that allowed him to take himself off the register.

Ms O'Neill, who unnecessarily underwent an invasive medical procedure by Dr Watt and was prescribed the wrong drugs for five years, described the development as an "insult" to patients who have suffered "immense harm".

The retired consultant was based at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for 20 years and is at the centre of the biggest patient recall in Northern Ireland due to "safety concerns" about his work.

He successfully applied to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for "voluntary erasure" from the register in October - a decision which meant a full and open misconduct hearing into his clinical practice could not proceed.

In a surprise move, a separate legal challenge to have the MPTS ruling quashed was made by an English body which oversees regulators, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), last month.

In a letter seen by The Irish News, Dr Watt's solicitors, Carson McDowell, state the "unforeseen development" involving the PSA is "plainly highly significant".

"We are proposing the (PSA) matter is reviewed by the court in the week commencing 6th December and that, in the interim, no further steps are taken in respect of the Judicial Review application (by Ms O'Neill)".

The correspondence was issued last week to the Belfast woman's lawyer, Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law, who is also representing other affected neurology patients.

Ms O'Neill, who has not returned to work since undergoing the unnecessary 'epidural blood patch' - where your own blood in injected into your lower spine to relieve low pressure headaches - said she and a patient support group will not be deterred from seeking answers.

"For Michael Watt to try to in some way suspend or injunct our proceedings is wrong. We are already trying to deal with the stress and trauma of all of this - and this development is a further insult to not only me but to thousands of patients whose lives have been impacted," she said.

"His legal team want the PSA case to be heard and for us to essentially take a back seat.

"I am taking this legal review against the MPTS. It's at the first stages. Michael Watt is not a registered notice party in this as yet - because we're applying to see if the judge will allow us to have a judicial review. He hasn't granted it as yet.

"The Neurology Recall Patient Support Group will never give up trying to seek truth and justice - we are patients who in the words of the General Medical Council have suffered 'immense harm'."

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