In April 2018, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust began what has been the most extensive patient recall exercise in Northern Ireland’s history. This related to patient’s treatment by Dr Michael Watt, Consultant Neurologist. Approximately 3,000 patients have been recalled, and recent figures suggest that up to 600 patients have been advised that they were misdiagnosed by Dr Watt. This represents around 1/5 of all patients recalled. We are currently representing a large number of Dr Watt’s former patients. O’Reilly Stewart is the only law firm in Northern Ireland with a dedicated Healthcare team representing patients.
There are ongoing proceedings before the General Medical Council, which regulates the fitness to practise of doctors. There is also a Neurology Inquiry ongoing which is chaired by Mr Brett Lockhart QC. In addition, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) are investigating governance issues in the Belfast Trust, as well as reviewing the medical records of all patients or former patients of Dr Watt who have died in the last 10 years.
While all patients are unique, there are recurring trends in the issues that have arisen from the recall. The commons issues patients have experienced are as follows:
• Misdiagnosis of conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and Multiple Sclerosis
• Unnecessary invasive treatments, such as epidural blood patches, being performed
• Prescribing errors – issues in respect of the prescription of medication for conditions such as epilepsy which were unnecessary and prescribing excessive doses of medication.
The approach from the Belfast Trust to date has been one of limited engagement with patients involved. Unfortunately, patients do not appear to be getting the answers to the questions they have about the care provided by Dr Watt.
NHS and Private Treatment
It should also be noted that Dr Watt was active in respect of non-NHS treatment, providing medical treatment in private healthcare facilities over many years. Patients in the private sphere are equally entitled to answers, and again there has been a complete lack of engagement from private healthcare providers to answer the queries that patients might have.
What can we do for you?
If you have been a victim of negligence in respect of neurology treatment, O’Reilly Stewart Healthcare can ensure that your case is independently investigated. We have already obtained independent neurology reports on behalf of patients, which provide a detailed analysis of the standard of medical treatment they received. These reports are from recognised experts based outside Northern Ireland and will form the basis of significant claims for compensation. We can ensure that, if negligence is established, you are fully and adequately compensated for the damage caused.
We are dealing already with a significant number of patients who have been affected by the recall. However, given the estimate of up to 600 patients misdiagnosed, we would estimate that many are still feeling lost and waiting for answers. We can guide patients through the process to allow for a robust, independent investigation of their unique situation.