Medical Negligence
By Gary Daly
Latest News

Neurology Recall Update – Further 209 Dr. Watt Patients Recalled

A further 209 former patients of Dr. Michael Watt have been recalled by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to examine the appropriateness of medication provided to them between 1996 and 2012. The latest recall was announced on 20th April 2021 and all affected patients have received letters inviting them to a review with a Consultant Neurologist.

The first patient recalls took place in May and October 2018. Health Minister Robin Swann apologised for the distress caused to the recalled patients and announced that to date around a fifth of Dr. Watt patients that have already been reviewed received an ‘insecure diagnosis’.

The recalls and subsequent reviews of patients have been mired in controversy for the last three years. In March 2021 it was announced that Dr. Hany El-Naggar, one of the Consultant’s appointed by the Belfast Trust to review recalled patients in 2018, is facing charges of professional misconduct in respect of failures in the care of patients in Nottingham hospital.

Independent Neurology Inquiry

A non- statutory public inquiry was announced in May 2018 to examine the governance of the Belfast Trust with particular focus on neurology services. The Health Minister upgraded the inquiry to a full statutory public inquiry in December 2020. The significance of this move is that the Chairperson of the Inquiry, Brett Lockhart QC, can now compel witnesses to attend to give evidence and can compel the production of documents which are required by the Inquiry.

The Inquiry are due to provide a preliminary report and then a final report into the governance of neurology services in the Belfast Trust. However, the latest recall may delay these reports further as more evidence may need to be gathered from the recently recalled patients.

Anyone who has been recalled is entitled to submit a questionnaire outlining their own personal experience. Questionnaires and instructions for completion can be accessed on the Independent Neurology Inquiry’s website – Key Documents | Independent Neurology Inquiry.

Our medical negligence team represents 21 former patients of Dr. Watt. We have written to the Independent Neurology Inquiry seeking ‘core participant’ status. We argue that participation from affected patients is vital to allow for a comprehensive investigation of neurology services in Northern Ireland.

Medical Negligence Claims

We are instructed to pursue medical negligence claims on behalf of each of our 21 clients. These cases relate mainly to misdiagnosis of neurological disorders and failure to properly treat neurological disorders.

We have instructed an independent neurologist in a number of cases to provide a report on the standard of care provided to our clients. If negligence is established in these cases, we would anticipate large scale settlements as some patients have been left with life altering injuries, many of which have been ongoing for a significant period of time.

What’s Next?

Each of the recently recalled patients will have to be reviewed by a Consultant Neurologist. The extent to which this will impact the ongoing Independent Neurology Inquiry remains to be seen. However, it does seem likely that recently recalled patient’s accounts will have to be examined in accordance with the Inquiry’s terms of reference. There will also be an overriding duty on the Inquiry to consider all available evidence in order to comprehensively investigate the failures of the Belfast Trust.

Medical negligence claims can be initiated immediately and there is no requirement to await the outcome of the Independent Neurology Inquiry. Medical negligence claims must be issued within 3 years of the ‘date of knowledge’. The ‘date of knowledge’ in the majority of these cases will be the date you became aware that you were misdiagnosed or mistreated by Dr. Watt. It is, therefore, important to seek legal advice without delay to ensure that your claim is not statute barred.

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