The head of health promised to restore confidence after an independent neurology inquiry report.


The senior health chief has vowed to work to restore confidence following a damaging report in response to complaints about a Belfast neurologist.

The Independent Neurology Inquiry found that systems and procedures surrounding patient safety had failed, and that the Belfast Health Trust did not take the opportunity to intervene in Dr. Michael Watt’s practice in early 2006.

With the Ulster Independent Clinic, where Dr. Watt had considerable private practice, the failures were not limited to the trust, which was criticized for “failing to disclose important complaints.”

The report states that the information was “primarily kept in silos” and that communication between the various organizations was “poor and inadequate”.

Professor Hugo Massey Taylor (left) and Brett Lockhart QC, who led the Independent Neurology Inquiry (PA). / PA Wire

The report makes 76 recommendations to the Department of Health, healthcare organizations, the General Medical Council and the independent sector.

Reacting to the report, former patients said they had failed, and called for accountability, “not just corporate accountability.”

Dr. Kathy Jack, chief executive of the Belfast Health Trust, apologized to the former patients and said that the trust had disappointed them.

She said she would not resign, adding that she did not believe in this “incredibly difficult time” for healthcare and that trust would improve if leaders “left their posts”. ۔

“I have significant work to do in extremely difficult situations to provide safe and better services for patients, service users and staff, and I intend to continue this,” he said.

Dr Jack said public confidence in the Belfast Trust and the wider medical profession was being tested because one doctor had disappointed many of his patients, and the trust had lost the opportunity to find out first.

“However, that one doctor today does not fully reflect the Belfast Trust’s 21,000 staff,” he said.

“It’s important to rebuild where trust is lost.

“The majority of physicians working at the Belfast Trust and elsewhere provide safe and high quality care to their patients.

“They provide this care with honesty and compassion. They do it because they put their patients first.

Peter McKinney, chairman of the Belfast Trust, said the trust is committed to making every effort to learn from experience and recommendations.

He said the trust has taken several steps to address some of the key concerns already identified through the inquiry.

Health Minister Robin Swann also apologized, calling the report “difficult to read.”

He described the report as “extensive and detailed”, and promised to ensure “careful and measured consideration” of what it deserves.

“I am determined that this analysis should be done as soon as possible,” he said.

Charlie Messi, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said he acknowledged that during his investigation he could do more to “quickly address medical concerns and share information more effectively with other organizations.” Should have

“We’re sorry we didn’t do that,” he said, adding that he would “consider the recommendations”.

All of them should work with dignity, bow their heads in shame and resign.

Dr Watt was at Northern Ireland’s largest patient return center, which began in 2018, after which concerns about his medical work arose.

More than 4,000 of his former patients attended return meetings.

About one in five patients who attended recall appointments received an “unsafe diagnosis”.

An inquiry led by Brett Lockhart QC concluded that the trust could and should have intervened earlier but failed to do so.

The report also found that although not every step taken since November 2016 was correct, the inquiry panel believes that the Belfast Trust received important decisions immediately after that date.

These included a partial ban on Dr. Watt in December 2016, the release of a report on his practice by the Royal College of Physicians, a complete ban on his practice in July 2017 and a decision to recall a large number of patients in May 2018. ۔ .

The report added: “Patients, however, will rightly point to the many years when problems with Dr. Watt were not resolved, opportunities were wasted and for such inactive patients. It caused significant damage. “

Mr Lockhart said the inquiry panel had concluded that the Belfast Trust “could and should have intervened earlier but failed to do so in many years”.

He said: “It is now the responsibility of every individual involved in the provision of health care, from political representatives to the Department of Health and Health Trusts, from the regulator to the independent sector, to properly comply with the recommendations of this report. Ensure consideration and implementation

“The goal is a healthcare system that makes patient safety its primary concern, whatever question is asked, or problem is identified. Patients who have been waiting for so many years deserve less than anyone. Are not.

Daniel O’Neill, a former patient of Dr. Michael Watt, was among those who participated in the publication of the report.

“Michael Watt failed us, the Belfast Trust failed us, the health department failed us, GMC failed every single patient involved in this scandal,” he said.

“All of them should work with dignity, they should bow their heads in shame and resign.”

Dr. Watt was allowed to voluntarily be removed by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service before the charges against him could be heard.

This means he can no longer practice medicine in the UK.