The recent patient recall at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which extends to 2,500 neurology patients including some who were treated by Consultant Neurologist Dr Michael Watt, has resulted in a number of on-going investigations from different regulatory bodies, and may have significant legal consequences for patients. Primarily, it will be a source of real concern for any patients or family members of former patients who have been recalled. We have already been contacted by numerous patients seeking advice in respect of the recall. Every patient’s circumstances will be unique but we can now offer the following practical guide to assist any patient who has a query regarding the neurological care they received.
First and foremost, it is important that you attend any recall appointment so that your treatment is reviewed and any issues in respect of your diagnosis or treatment are remedied. While most patients will hopefully have no cause for concern, it is possible that some patients will have come to harm if substandard care has been provided.
Seek Legal Advice
Following your review appointment, if you believe that you have been misdiagnosed or you have any other query regarding the standard of medical care provided, then you should seek advice from our Healthcare Team. This is a specialised area of law and you will be able to speak to an experienced solicitor. We may then proceed to obtain copies of your medical records, independent expert evidence, and take appropriate legal action if necessary. We have considerable experience advising patients in respect of healthcare inquiries and adverse incidents.
NHS / Private Care
While the patient recall refers specifically to NHS patients within the Belfast Trust, if you have any query in relation to private neurology care received please also contact us for advice.
Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)
Particular incidents where there are serious concerns relating to care provided to a patient are often dealt with by a Serious Adverse Incident investigation. However, this patient recall encompasses a broad range of patients and any investigation must have a wider scope. Accordingly, the Department of Health has already asked the RQIA to review outpatient services focusing on Neurology at the Belfast Trust.
Disciplinary Investigation & General Medical Council
It is expected that an investigation will take place to assess the capability and conduct of any medical practitioner whose patients are subject to the recall. If, after full and proper investigation, care provided is found to have been below the standard expected, internal disciplinary proceedings may take place within the Trust. Also, it is reported that a referral will be made to the General Medical Council. When a referral is made, the General Medical Council is responsible for making an assessment of a medical practitioner’s fitness to practise.
Of course, our hope is that only limited number of patients will be adversely affected by the outcome of the recall. However, if you believe you have been adversely affected, then we strongly recommend you speak to us as soon as possible. Any patient who has suffered harm as a result of substandard treatment may be entitled to seek compensation.