Belfast Trust recalls 209 neurology patients

20th April 2021
Belfast Trust recalls 209 neurology patients

Belfast Trust has today recalled a further 209 neurology patients in connection with the work of former consultant neurologist, Dr Michael Watt.

The people recalled today are former patients of Dr Watt who were seen and discharged between 1996 – 2012 and who are taking certain prescribed medications for specific neurological conditions.

Those people affected will have received a letter today asking them to contact us to set up a telephone review with a consultant neurologist. The purpose of this appointment is to review the medication a person is taking and to assure ourselves it is appropriate for their condition. Should anyone require a further face-to-face appointment that will be arranged for a different day. Extra clinics have been set up to facilitate this and we plan to have completed all telephone reviews within 4 weeks.

Trust Chief Executive, Dr Cathy Jack said, ‘I am truly sorry that we have had to recall a further 209 people. I absolutely understand that this will cause worry and anxiety to a number of people and their families and I am deeply sorry for that. I also accept this next stage may be very difficult for those patients who have already been reviewed and whose diagnoses may have been changed as a result of our two previous recalls. Again, I want to express the Trust’s sincere regret for all the hurt and pain caused over the last number of years and for the harm that has undoubtedly been done.’

She continued, ‘It is absolutely imperative that we put right any past wrongs and while this is painful, it is vital we assure ourselves that former patients, now discharged and who are taking very specific medication, are taking it for the correct reasons.’

In establishing this third neurology recall, Belfast Trust has reviewed the medical records of several thousand patients seen by Dr Watt since 1996, when he took up his post at the Royal Victoria Hospital. From this review it has been determined that 209 people require an appointment to ensure they are on the correct medication for their condition.
Additionally, the Trust has asked a number of GPs to confirm if 495 people remain correctly on certain non-neurological long-term medications, like Aspirin, who were seen by Dr Watt between 1996 and 2012 at a neurology clinic and who have not been reviewed by a consultant neurologist in the intervening years. If a GP would like the Trust to review any person they are unsure of, we will ensure that happens.

Blood patching procedures

Separate to the neurology recall, Belfast Trust undertook a case note review of 66 patients who had a blood patch procedure under the care of Dr Michael Watt, and who did not have a clinical review as part of the recall process. The internal review established that 46 patients had care that was unsatisfactory and fell below a standard we would expect. Additionally, the review established that for 45 patients there was no clinical evidence to support that a blood patch procedure was required. We are deeply sorry for this and for the undue hurt these patients experienced.
We agreed with the Royal College of Physicians to undertake an independent quality assurance process in relation to the Trust’s own review of blood patching. The College is concluding its work and will provide a final report in early May 2021. However, the College have been able to provide an interim update that their findings are generally consistent with those of Belfast Trust.

Outcomes Report

Belfast Trust has today welcomed the Department of Health Outcomes Report on phase 2 of the neurology recall. The Report can be accessed here.

Advice Line

For any of Dr Watt’s previous patients who remain anxious of worried, support is available by ringing the Neurology Advice Line on 0800 980 1100. The advice line is operational from 9am-8pm until Tuesday 27th April. After this date the opening hours will return to 9am to 5pm daily with the exception of weekends and public holidays.

Further information