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Neurologist to face new fitness to practise hearing

Dr Michael Watt. Concerns over the clinical work of the former Belfast Health and Social Care Trust consultant neurologist were first raised in 2018. More than 4,000 of his former patients attended recall appointments

Dr Michael Watt. Concerns over the clinical work of the former Belfast Health and Social Care Trust consultant neurologist were first raised in 2018. More than 4,000 of his former patients attended recall appointments

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has announced that a hearing into Dr Michael Watt will begin in September.

Concerns over the clinical work of the former Belfast Health and Social Care Trust consultant neurologist were first raised in 2018.

More than 4,000 of his former patients attended recall appointments.

A previous MPTS tribunal granted Dr Watt voluntary removal from the medical register.

The private ruling was made ahead of an expected public hearing and caused anger among politicians and some of his former patients.

However, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) referred the matter to the High Court in Northern Ireland due to concern that the ruling was “not sufficient to protect the public”.

The High Court sent the case back to the MPTS after quashing its previous ruling.

The new hearing will consider whether Dr Watt’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of “deficient professional performance”, following a General Medical Council (GMC) assessment in which his performance was deemed unacceptable in five areas.

An entry on the MPTS website stated: “The tribunal will inquire into the allegation that, between 7 and 22 October 2018, Dr Watt underwent a General Medical Council assessment of the standard of his professional performance.

“It is alleged that his professional performance was unacceptable in the areas of maintaining professional performance, assessment, clinical management, record-keeping and relationship with patients.”

A separate probe, the Independent Neurology Inquiry, concluded last year that problems with Dr Watt’s practice were missed for years and opportunities to intervene were lost.

It said systems and processes in place around patient safety failed and made more than 70 recommendations.

SDLP health spokesman Colin McGrath welcomed the new hearing as he said serious questions about the work of Dr Watt have still to be answered.

He said: “It should have taken place a long time ago and it’s disappointing that patients have had to fight to get this far.

“There remain serious questions to answer and it is appropriate that they are now being looked at by the tribunal.

“The whole situation casts a long shadow over our health service and it’s important that lessons are learned so that nothing like this can ever take place again.

“However, we will be unable to fully move on until this case is properly examined and patients feel that their experiences have been heard and taken on board.

“This tribunal will not make up for the pain and suffering caused to so many, but it will help to bring closure and answers for those involved.”

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