More than thousand extra patients recalled in major neurology review

Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride has apologised for any distress and uncertainty the review process might cause
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride has apologised for any distress and uncertainty the review process might cause

A further 1,000 neurology patients in Northern Ireland are being recalled as a major health review sparked by concerns about a consultant’s work continues.

Some 2,500 former patients of Dr Michael Watt have already been recalled. And now a further 1,044 who had been seen by the consultant but discharged to the care of their GP and prescribed medications for neurological conditions will now be offered appointments within the next four months, the Department of Health has said.

The medications include anti-epileptic drugs, immunosuppressants and disease modifying therapies which are used to treat conditions like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

Patients will be drawn from the NHS and two private clinics where Dr Watt practised.

Patients who were being actively treated by Dr Watt have already been seen as part of the review, which is believed to have cost around £1 million so far.

Two former patients of Dr Watt, Audrey Barr and Helen Howell, who credit him with having saved their lives, have branded the review “a witch hunt” – a claim the department has strenuously denied.

It has stressed that the process was sparked by concerns regarding the care and treatment provided to a number of patients by Dr Watt.

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride apologised for any distress and uncertainty the process might cause, but said the department has “a responsibility to act on clinical advice and the emerging outcomes from the first phase of the recall”.

All patients in the first stage of the review, announced earlier this year, have already received a first appointment and more than 600 have been discharged.

A significant number of other patients have been referred separately from the main recall process.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust consultant neurologist Dr John Craig said: “We wish to reassure everyone who has received a letter that our primary focus is to provide assurance that they are on the correct treatment and request that they should not stop or make adjustments to their medication until they have been reviewed by a consultant neurologist at their appointment.

“It is crucial that everyone who does not receive a letter understands that they have no action to take and do not need to get in touch.

“This latest review process is being concentrated on specific groups of patients taking specific, specialised medicines.”

Dr Watt ceased all patient care and treatment last year.