Northern Ireland

More than 3,000 patients in neurology recall

Computer representation of human brain Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 2,500 neurology patients in Northern Ireland, including children, have been recalled

A total of 3,200 neurology patients have been recalled so far, according to the Department of Health.

The recall was announced following an independent review of consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt's work.

So far 281 patients have been reassessed but the department said it is too early to say if there have been any cases of misdiagnosis.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'I feel diminished by what's happened'

They say other cases will be reviewed, involving former patients, and they are examining a redress scheme.

The number of recalled patients may increase further.

An independent inquiry into the patient recall, which involves both health service and private patients, has already been announced. It will be chaired by barrister Brett Lockhart QC.

At a briefing led by Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride on Friday, MLAs were told that Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor, an internationally recognised expert, has been appointed as a panel member for the inquiry.

'Concerted action'

"It is always a very difficult time when the service falls short of the high standards rightly expected by the public," said Dr McBride.

"It is essential that concerted action is taken and that lessons are learned for the benefit of patients."

Departmental officials also gave a commitment to maintain detailed communication with elected representatives and stakeholders as the recall processes continue.

Image caption Richard Pengelly issued a public apology on behalf of the health service

On Thursday neurology patients affected by Northern Ireland's biggest health recall received an apology from the Department of Health's top civil servant, Richard Pengelly.

The permanent secretary said the health and social care services "apologised unreservedly".

Neurology is the treatment of brain conditions including MS, Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neurone Disease- all of which can be life-changing.

The recall has left many patients very concerned about the potential for misdiagnosis, however, many of Dr Watt's former patients have expressed support and gratitude for the care he provided.

Some patients praised his bedside manner but admitted to being concerned about his workload.

Dr Watt is a consultant neurologist at the Royal Victoria and City hospitals in Belfast and also treated patients at private clinics.

Many of his patients were recalled following a case review by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Dedicated helpline

Families of deceased patients of Dr Watt can contact the RQIA on 028 95 361111 and ask for the neurology review help desk.

The RQIA will be establishing a dedicated helpline in the coming days.

They have also established an internal steering group to oversee the two reviews. Patricia Gordon from the MS Society will act as a patient representative on the group.

More on this story