More than 2,500 patients treated in Belfast and diagnosed with neurological conditions are being recalled for case reviews, the biggest ever patient recall in Northern Ireland’s history.
All those affected, including a number of children, were treated by a single Consultant Neurologist, Dr Michael Watt.
Concerns over misdiagnosis follow an independent review of patient notes by Belfast Trust and the Royal College of Physicians. It has not been ruled out that the investigation could later cover people who have died under his care.
Neurological conditions are those that affect the brain and includes Parkinson’s Disease, MS and Motor Neurone Disease.
Dr Mark Mitchelson, the chair of the neurology division, said in a statement: “I fully understand this will cause significant anxiety to many patients and their families and for that we are truly sorry. Other doctors raised concerns with the Trust regarding the care and treatment provided by Dr Michael Watt to a small number of patients.”
Mitchelson added that as part of a further review carried out by the Royal College of Physicians, the hospital would be inviting “a number” of paitents back for review, “to assure them, their families, and ourselves that they are receiving the best treatment.”
The hospital said it would be setting up a large number of additional clinics, and would be aiming to see all recalled patients within 12 weeks. “Again, we are truly sorry for the anxiety this will cause,” the statement added.
Belfast Trust has contacted every patient they want to review and are asking patients to contact them so that an appointment can be made for them to be seen.
Alice Doyle, CEO, Brain & Spine Foundation, told HuffPost UK: “This news will be very worrying for all those affected.
“Patients with neurological conditions already have long waits to see specialists as there aren’t enough in the UK. Waiting for diagnosis means living with symptoms, which may include pain, movement problems and around 50% of patients will have associated mental health problems.
“All this can impact on individuals’ ability to work, support their families and take part in everyday life. This wait also means delays for accessing treatment which may mean symptoms get worse before appropriate treatments are being administered.
“Neurological conditions affect around 1 in 6 in the population, so they are very common although unfortunately not well understood.”
For anyone who may be worried and is seeking further support, an advice line has been set up. The telephone number is: 0800 980 1100 and lines will be open weekdays from 9am – 9pm and weekends from 9am – 5pm.
Or contact the Brain & Spine Foundation helpline, 0808 808 1000.
If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can speak with a HuffPost journalist in full confidence. Email Chris.York@huffpost.com.