What is the Neurology Recall?
Due to concerns about the standard of treatment being provided by consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt, at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, a number of the consultant’s patients have been recalled for their case to be reviewed. The consultant was restricted from clinical practice in July 2017.
Neurology Recall Cohort 1
The first recall of patients started in May 2018 and included patients who had been under the active care of the consultant neurologist. A report on the results of this recall “Cohort 1 Outcomes Report” was published in December 2019. A copy of the report can be found on the Department website.
Neurology Recall Cohort 2
Early results from the first recall identified a group of patients who needed to be reviewed urgently. In October 2018, previous patients of the consultant neurologist in this high risk group, that were seen by him between 2012 and 2017, but discharged back to the care of their GP, were invited for a review. A report on the results of the recall of this group “Neurology Recall: Cohort 2 Activity and Outcomes” was published on Tuesday 20 April 2021. A copy of the report can be found on the Department website.
Neurology Recall Cohort 3
In the context that a significant proportion of the Cohort 2 patients did have an insecure diagnosis, the advice from the reviewing consultants was that it would be appropriate to also review an additional cohort of the consultant neurologist’s patients, Cohort 3. Cohort 3 comprises those people who had been under the care of Dr Watt between June 1996 and March 2012 who had returned to the care of their General Practitioner (GP), had not subsequently been under the care of another consultant neurologist, and had been prescribed one or more specific medications during the period 1 February 2020 to 31 July 2020.
Cohort 3 further included those people who had been under the care of Dr Watt, who had not been seen in the previous cohorts and who were identified as falling into the category of ‘young stroke patients’ due to the extension of the age range of those reviewed within Cohort 2.
The Cohort 3 Recall was announced by the Minister of Health on 20 April 2021. The publication of the “Neurology Recall: Cohort 3 Activity and Outcomes Report”, accompanied by the “Neurology Recall Cohort 1, 2 and 3 Summary Report” was announced on 9 June 2022. Following the publication of the Cohort 3 Outcomes Report, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust identified a further 19 patients as falling within Cohort 3 of the recall and who required a review appointment. On 7 September 2022 a Written Assembly Statement confirmed the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust extension to the Neurology Recall Cohort 3.
An addendum to the “Neurology Recall: Cohort 3 Activity and Outcomes Report”, and the “Neurology Recall Cohort 1, 2 and 3 Summary Report” was published on 27 April 2023. This concluded the extension to the Neurology Recall Cohort 3. A copy of the Cohort 3 report can be found on the Department website and a copy of the Summary Report can be found on the Department website.
Following the publication of the Cohort 3 Outcomes Report, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust identified a further 19 patients as falling within Cohort 3 of the recall and who required a review appointment. On 7 September 2022 a Written Assembly Statement confirmed the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust extension to the Neurology Recall Cohort 3.
Neurology Recall Compensation
In 2018 the Department announced a work stream to consider a potential neurology redress scheme. A Project Board was initiated and following consideration of redress options it concluded that a neurology redress or early resolution scheme is not a suitable method to address neurology recall claims.
On 9 June 2022 the Minister of Health confirmed the arrangements for neurology compensation by way of a Written Assembly statement. A copy of the statement can be found on the Department website.The statement outlined that a neurology redress or early resolution scheme is not a suitable method to address neurology recall claims as it would not support a fair resolution and remedy for patients and families seeking compensation. Therefore, each neurology recall case will be considered on its own merit to ensure a just outcome for those affected, and to ensure that claimants receive the compensation they deserve.
All claims received in respect of the care provided by Dr Watt should be submitted under the standard arrangements for health service litigation claims. A streamlined approach has also been developed and will be used where appropriate. Whilst the Department cannot provide legal advice to patients and families, we can advise that should you wish to pursue a compensation claim you should seek appropriate independent legal advice. Solicitors who act in professional negligence cases can be found by using the following link to the Law Society of Northern Ireland website - (by selecting - ‘Find a Solicitor’). It is important to understand that making a claim can be stressful and it is not possible to provide a timeframe for how long the process can take to complete. It is also important at the beginning of the process that you discuss potential costs and funding which may be available with your solicitor.
Frequently Asked Questions
A list of Frequently Asked Questions in relation to Neurology Recall Compensation can be found on the Department website.
The following materials are a short guide to help you better understand the claims process. It is important to note that the legal process can be complicated and you should talk through the process with your solicitor.
Support for Neurology Recall patients continues to be made available from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Any patient affected by the recall and who has concerns, can contact the Neurology Advice Line on 0800 980 1100, where your questions will be noted and a senior manager will make contact with you within 48 hours to discuss your concerns. The Neurology Advice Line is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with the exception of bank/public holidays.