The findings of an independent neurological study are as shocking as they are condemning. The incredible 115 pages of the five-volume report deal with the topic of missed opportunities.
The examination shows that repeatedly over the course of 10 years, steps could be taken to correct the shortcomings in the work of Dr. Michael Watt, but very little or nothing was done.
It is alarming that Dr Tony Stevens and Professor Sir Michael McBride, former medical directors of the Belfast Foundation, told the inquest that as early as 2006/07 there were “early indications that a pattern was emerging in Dr. speed. …inadequate testing and promptness of prescribing.”
Also troubling is the fact that the shamed medic was allowed to work in isolation between 2012 and 2017 despite being restricted in a clinical setting and previously had a five-year warning on his license to practice.
Another troubling finding from the investigation was “the culture that prevented the escalation of concerns.”
We were told that the former doctor’s wrongdoing was “in plain sight” with his colleagues, but they were unwilling or unable to admit that he was capable of serious mistakes, or did not want to cause concern if it did not directly concern their patients. .
The discovery is particularly troubling because it comes more than four years after the hyponatremia investigation criticized the lack of openness and honesty in the health service.
Despite this, an independent neurological investigation found evidence that patient safety was not at the forefront of the problematic local health service.
As details of abuse at Macamour Abbey emerge from another public inquiry, as work continues on the urological inquiry and in the aftermath of a scandal like the Dunmurry Manor Nursing Home scandal, health officials have a job to reassure the public about health and social care. sphere. care system is safe.
The sad reality is that Northern Ireland’s beleaguered National Health Service appears to be going through one crisis after another. The fact that the Minister of Health has had to announce three investigations during his tenure is a sign that change is needed.
Even as he reacted to the investigation results on Tuesday, Robin Swann warned that there would be “harder days” for the public health service as the urology and Macamor investigations release their findings.
He acknowledged that the NHS’s reputation had been tarnished, but said: “We must be mindful of the high quality, compassionate care provided daily by dedicated, skilled staff. Fortunately, they are the norm.”
It is true that of the millions of interactions that take place between the public and the health service each year, most are positive experiences. It would be correct to go further and say that due to the dedication and hard work of many employees, more patients are not harmed.
Pioneering advances are being made every day and lives are being saved, but Dr Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council for Northern Ireland, is right when he says the service is not working.
The fact that an organization like the BMA, which is not known for making wild, unsubstantiated claims, should take the unprecedented step of describing the NHS in this way is a very important intervention that should be taken seriously. With luck, these comments won’t be met with the same apathy as the latest hospital waiting list statistics that barely made it into the news.
Dr. Black makes it clear that patients are dying because they wait so long for scheduled care.
Let’s not forget the ambulance crisis as patients die in ambulances and overcrowded emergency rooms.
In addition, we learned last week from an Assembly question from SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin that people with suspected cancer have been waiting for confirmation for over a year, and women have also endured an unbearable four-month delay in their smear results.
Over the years, Dr Black has always been a strong believer that essential services such as emergency medical care and cancer treatment are provided safely in Northern Ireland.
It is not possible to make this argument now. Indeed, the situation has worsened to the point where the BMA has decided to speak out.
Promises have been made in recent weeks that waiting lists will be reviewed and the health service will be changed to be more efficient.
After the publication of the Independent Neurological Investigation Report on Tuesday, we were told that the lessons had been learned and the recommendations would be accepted.
No doubt the same platitudes will be uttered when the chairs of Muckamore and Urology Research publish their findings.
The problems that surfaced last week highlighted systemic failures at the highest levels of the service, a woeful lack of accountability when things go catastrophically wrong, and the impact of years of political instability.
Until all this is resolved, there will be real concerns about patient safety.
It is undeniable that the vast majority of NHS staff are honest and dedicated to helping patients, but as with any large organization, there will always be rogue elements.
Those who want to put patients first need to feel they can report concerns while at the same time being able to deliver the highest quality of care and not be limited by a system that doesn’t serve the purpose.