Independent Inquiry To Be Held Over Belfast Trust Patient Recall

An independent inquiry is to be held over the recall of more than 2,500 neurology patients by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Last week, the Trust announced the recall following a probe into the work of neurology consultant Dr Michael Watt.

The Department of Health said the inquiry panel will be chaired by Brett Lockhart QC and discussions are continuing with the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management on identifying a panel member with suitable clinical leadership expertise..

In addition, the inquiry will review the process initiated by the Trust in December 2016 over concerns raised about the clinical practice of Dr Michael Watt, which resulted in the patient recall announced last week.

The panel will also assess whether any complaints or concerns relating to Dr Watt prior to December 2016 should have provided grounds for earlier intervention.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, said: "The focus since last week has rightly been on establishing a robust patient recall process. That remains the first priority.
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"However, it is clear that a rigorous review is also required – given the seriousness of the situation and the impact on patients. The public needs to be assured that this issue has been properly and appropriately handled by the Trust, and that any lessons for the future are learned.

"I am indebted to Mr Lockhart for agreeing to lead this inquiry panel and undertake this important work."

SDLP Deputy Leader, Nichola Mallon MLA, welcomed the announcement.

"The decision by the Department of Health to establish an Independent Inquiry Panel to review the recall of neurology patients within the Belfast Trust is most welcome," she said.

"In particular, it is important that we will now have openness and transparency about what exactly happened within this area of our health service.

"Patients and their families, and the general public, will be relieved to see that the Department has stepped up. It is absolutely vital that this review establishes exactly how this was allowed to happen and what changes are required to prevent the possibility of this happening again."


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