Another group of former patients of disgraced neurologist Dr Michael Watt is to be reviewed – in two months Robin Swann told the MLAs that “no further recall is required”.
This morning the Health Secretary issued a written statement to his colleagues in the Assembly, saying that the Belfast Trust had informed its officials that “a further 19 patients have been identified”.
He continued: “The foundation is currently arranging review appointments for these additional patients as soon as possible.
“I am making this statement today as a courtesy to members and to ensure that the Assembly is fully updated.”
Patients who are withdrawn fall into the third withdrawal cohort.
The third cohort consists of people who were seen by Dr Watt between June 1996 and March 2012, who returned to their GP, were not subsequently seen by another consultant neurologist and were assigned one or more of special medicines in the period from February to July 2020.
The third cohort also included those people under Dr. Watt’s care who were not seen in the previous cohorts and who were identified as the “young stroke patients” category.
Of the 495 cohorts of three patients examined, 87 had a diagnosis that was considered “dangerous” and a further 28 had “uncertainty” about their previous diagnosis.
In a written statement released by Mr Swan in June, when he published a report on the performance and results of the third cohort, he called it a “significant milestone”.
He continued: “However, I understand that this does not compensate for the stress and anxiety caused to the affected patients and families.
“With this in mind, I hope that the completion of the Neurology recall will provide confidence that no further recalls will be necessary.”
Meanwhile, the Belfast Trust website has a frequently asked questions section about the third cohort.
When asked if there will be another recall, the website says, “No. The neurology recall is complete.
“We have now withdrawn and reviewed the patients that needed to be reviewed.”
It is not clear how or why another 19 people are now being tested in the third cohort.
On 21 June, the Independent Neurological Inquiry published a damning assessment of the role of the Belfast Trust, the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Ulster Independent Clinic (UIC) in the Dr Michael Watt neurological scandal.
A public inquiry said a “catalogue of missed opportunities” and numerous system failures led to the recall of more than 5,000 patients across Northern Ireland.
The inquiry was set up to examine governance in the health service after serious concerns were raised about the clinical practice of a former Belfast Trust consultant neurologist, which led to the recall of 5,448 patients – the biggest patient recall in NHS history.
Announcing the findings, the inquiry’s chairman, Brett Lockhart, QC, said: “Have patients been let down? The investigative team believes that there were.
“Have there been missed opportunities over the years to identify a problem in Dr. Watt’s practice?
“Again, the answer is yes, and this report describes these opportunities in great detail.
“Would an earlier intervention have made a difference? The investigative team believes that it would have been done.”
Mr Lockhart QC said the commission of inquiry found 12 specific cases between 2011 and 2016 where various people – including GPs, registrars, consultants outside the Belfast Trust and a nurse – raised concerns, but it was only when the problem was finally solved. was brought to the attention of the Medical Director in November 2016 and action was taken.
He said if the “numerous issues, complaints and circumstances” had been properly investigated, they “would have uncovered a significant problem at a much earlier stage”.