Department of Health update MLAs re: neurology patient recall

Date published: 18 May 2018

Political parties were today given a detailed update on the actions being taken in response to the neurology patient recall announced by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.


The briefing at the Department of Health was led by Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride.

A series of actions has been initiated by the Department in response to the recall of patients.

These include the announcement of an independent inquiry panel chaired by Brett Lockhart QC to examine the handling of the recall process.

MLAs were today told that the second panel member has been appointed, bringing a strong clinical leadership input to the inquiry’s work. The Department is grateful to Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor, an internationally recognised expert, for agreeing to take on this important role.

The Departmental officials gave a commitment at the meeting to maintain detailed communication with elected representatives and stakeholders as the recall processes continue.

MLAs were also updated on the work being taken forward by the RQIA. This includes a review of governance of outpatient services in the Belfast HSC Trust with a particular focus on neurology services. The terms of reference for this review have been made public today.

The RQIA is assembling a highly experienced dedicated team to undertake this review. The team will include Dr Dave Evans, former Medical Director and Interim Chief Executive Northumbria Healthcare NHSC Foundation Trust, England; Ms Amanda Stanford, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Care Quality Commission, England; and Dr Donagh McDonagh, General Practitioner Elmwood Medical Practice, Dunluce Health Centre, Belfast.

In a separate review, the RQIA has also been asked ensure that the records of all patients or former patients of Dr Michael Watt who have died over the past ten years are subject to expert review.

Families of deceased patients of Dr Watt can currently contact RQIA by calling 028 95 361111 and asking for the neurology review help desk. RQIA will be establishing a dedicated helpline in the coming days.

RQIA has established an internal steering group to oversee the two reviews.  Patricia Gordon from the MS Society will act as a patient representative on this group.

The Department will also be examining options for a potential redress scheme for patients found to have suffered adverse impacts from inappropriate or incorrect diagnoses. A final decision on redress arrangements will rest with Ministers.

Mr Pengelly said: “This obviously remains an extremely distressing and trying time for patients and their families.

“The central focus remains on ensuring that the recalled patients are assessed as swiftly as possible. I would like to pay tribute and say thank you to the neurology doctors, nurses, AHP professionals and indeed all staff involved in this vital recall work.”

Dr McBride “The appointment of Brett Lockhart QC and Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor to the inquiry panel is a very clear sign of how seriously the Department is treating this whole issue. It is always a very difficult time when the service falls short of the high standards rightly expected by the public.

“It is essential that concerted action is taken and that lessons are learned for the benefit of patients.”

Notes to editors: 

1.    Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor has a strong clinical background, having worked in the NHS as a Clinical Director, Medical Director and a Director of Commissioning. He also previously served as medical director of the health service regulatory body Monitor (now NHS Improvement). He is currently executive medical director of the healthcare practice of EY (Ernst & Young)

2.    The terms of reference for the RQIA work are:

I. To describe and assess the governance of outpatient services in Belfast HSC Trust, with a particular focus on neurology and other high volume specialties.

II. To report on findings and make an assessment of the level of assurance found in relation to the services outlined at I. above.

III. To commission an expert review of the records of all patients (current and former) of Dr Watt who have died over the last ten years to include deaths from more than ten years ago if concerns identified during this process indicate further retrospective review required.

IV. To report on the findings of the expert review outlined at III. above 

3.    Latest recall figures collated by Health and Social Care Board/PHA: 2529 HSC patients have been identified as needing to be reviewed as part of the neurology recall.

  • Of this number 281 people have been reviewed to date (figures valid up to and including 16th May 2018).
  • Another 1960 people have appointments made to be seen over the three month period (figures valid as of 9am on 17th May 2018).

In relation to private patients, the Ulster Independent Clinic has advised that up to 703 people may need to be recalled, while the figure from Hillsborough Private Clinic is fewer than five.

4.    For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office Team on 028 90 520575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

Share this page

Back to top