And the long-delayed report into neurologist Dr Michael Watt has revealed that almost all of those 617 patients subequently had their diagnosis changed.
In 2018, about 3,000 patients were recalled as investigations were carried out into the work of Dr Watt at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
He was suspended amid concerns over possible misdiagnoses.
On Thursday night the Department of Health published the Outcomes Report for the first cohort of neurology patients whose treatment has been reviewed by the Belfast Trust.
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The department said it had intended to publish the report in the summer but this was postponed due to “highly sensitive unforeseen circumstances”.
A statement said: “The department remains unable to comment on the nature of the unforeseen circumstances, due to their sensitivity.
“However, we are now satisfied that the conditions exist to allow us to publish this report.”
The clinicians conducting the review were asked to consider whether the diagnoses carried out by Dr Watt were secure and that prescribing was appropriate.
The statement said: “The outcomes report shows that of the 2,952 patients assessed by the reviewing clinicians, 2,006 (68.0%) had a diagnosis that was considered to be secure, 617 (20.9%) had a diagnosis that was considered to be not secure whilst for 329 (11.1%) patients there was uncertainty in respect of whether the previous diagnosis was secure.
“It is important to note that a diagnosis which is now considered to be not secure does not automatically equate to a misdiagnosis.”
However, the report added: “Of the 617 people whose diagnosis was considered not secure, almost all had their diagnosis changed.”
It continued: “Similar proportions of these patients were considered to not have a proper management plan in place and had not received appropriate prescriptions. The unprecedented scale of the recall of patients was required to determine if patients were receiving the correct care and treatment.”
Dr Watt worked as a neurologist at the RVH. Last year thousands of his patients were asked to come for a fresh assessment after concerns were raised about his care.
The Department of Health report covers 2,952 patients assessed by the reviewing clinicians.
It stated: “The department and Belfast Trust have apologised to affected patients and we would wish to reiterate and underline those apologies. It is highly regrettable that one person should have to go through this experience, let alone the large numbers that have been involved.”
The Department of Health will publish a further Outcomes Report next year for more recalled patients and announce whether any further recall is considered necessary.