Neurology inquiry concerns not unique, says chair

By Louise Cullen
BBC News NI

Published
Dr Michael Watt
Image caption,
Dr Michael Watt worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital as a neurologist

The chair of the Independent Neurological Inquiry has told Stormont's health committee the concerns it is looking at are applicable throughout the health service and far beyond Belfast.

Brett Lockhart QC updated the committee on the progress of the inquiry, which was established in May 2018.

It followed concerns raised about potential misdiagnoses by neurologist Michael Watt in the Belfast Trust.

He is no longer employed by the Trust and is under investigation by the General Medical Council.

Mr Lockhart told the inquiry he did not believe the issues raised were unique in any way to neurology and they were relevant to every sector.

"Some of the recommendations we make we believe, and hope, will be implemented right across the NHS and Trusts in Northern Ireland," he said.

His co-chair, Professor Hugo Mascie Taylor, agreed.

"This extends well beyond Northern Ireland, it extends across the UK, and I have to say in my experience, well beyond the UK," he said.

"The patterns of behaviour are not dissimilar across the world. So the recommendations that we are going to make I hope will be applicable well, well beyond Belfast."

Image source, NI Assembly
Image caption,
Brett Lockhart QC said the inquiry continues to receive new evidence

Brett Lockhart QC said there had been good co-operation with the inquiry by the Belfast Trust and other bodies involved.

One registrar who had worked with Dr Watt had emigrated to Australia and attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.

The chair said his evidence was unlikely to add anything of relevance.

Another retired consultant has been deemed medically unfit to give evidence, although the inquiry has been supplied with all relevant e-mails.

While interviewing was suspended during lockdown, the inquiry resumed evidence-gathering earlier this month, and has a schedule of interviews running until the end of January 2021.

It is still receiving new evidence, as recently as Wednesday, the inquiry chair said.

There is no date yet for a final report.