Northern Ireland news

‘We were failed' – former patients of Dr Michael Watt

Danielle O'Neill, a former patient of Dr Michael Watt, pictured at the launch of the Independent Neurology Inquiry report in Belfast today. Picture by Hugh Russell 
Rebecca Black, PA

Former patients of the neurologist Dr Michael Watt have said they were failed by the Belfast Health Trust and the Department of Health as well as him.

The patients emerged from Law Society House following the publication of the independent neurology inquiry report to applause.

The report, following the inquiry led by Brett Lockhart QC, found that systems and processes in place around patient safety failed, and problems with Dr Watt’s practice were missed for years and opportunities to intervene were lost.

It makes 76 recommendations to the Department of Health, healthcare organisations, the General Medical Council and the independent sector.

Jean Garland said she and fellow former patients are grateful to have got to this day, with a lot of hard work having been undertaken along the way.

“We’re grateful for the work that has been put in. We’re not really surprised that there were complaints way before 2016 and that the Belfast Trust has failed us by not acting on those complaints,” she said.

“If they had acted when those complaints happened, we wouldn’t be standing here today … a lot of people here today know that they would never have had the traumatic experiences that they did have if the Belfast Trust had done its job.”

Asked who they blamed, another former patient, Danielle O’Neill, responded: “Michael Watt failed us, the Belfast Trust failed us, the Department of Health failed us, the GMC failed every single patient caught up in this scandal.

“They should all do the honourable thing, hang their heads in shame and resign.”

Therese Ward said the report is not the end of the road.

“This is the beginning, we have been harmed by inaction and we now know that the Belfast Trust had the information that would have prevented the harm to all of us, it had the information and sat on it,” she said.

“We want accountability, not just corporate accountability, we want personal accountability where people who have allowed harm to us are personally held accountable.”

Ms Garland added: “This is just a report, now we need action and we need people in power and our politicians have a big role to play here to push to get this to happen.”

Ms O’Neill also said she felt health minister Robin Swann should have been present for the publication of the Independent Neurology Inquiry report.

“He should be standing here alongside us – where is Robin Swann today?” she asked.

Ms Ward added: “And where is Michael Watt?”

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