Police have launched a major investigation into a former NHS neurologist struck off after Northern Ireland’s largest-ever recall of patients.
Dr Michael Watt worked as a consultant at both Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital and privately at the Hillsborough Private Clinic an Ulster Independent Clinic. He was removed from Northern Ireland’s medical register earlier this month following a tribunal.
Concerns over his clinical practices resulted in the largest recall of patients in history in 2018 – 4,000 in total. The NHS recalls patients when concerns are raised about the treatment they have received.
The tribunal concluded that Mr Watt’s fitness to practise was “currently impaired” and his professional performance was unacceptable.
Striking him off was the “only sufficient sanction which will protect patients”, the panel said.
Previously his voluntary removal from the medical register was quashed by a High Court ruling that deemed it was not sufficient for public protection.
During the subsequent hearings, which he stopped attending due to mental health concerns, the panel was told that he repeatedly failed to diagnose patients correctly.
This resulted in some undergoing unnecessarily “invasive” treatment and taking drugs with “serious and toxic” side effects.
He also failed to document patients’ medical history or carry out the right physical examinations.
The former consultant stopped practising in 2017 and was interviewed three times by the General Medical Council (GMC) the following year.
‘Long and complex investigation’
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has named their investigation Operation Begrain.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness, who is leading the probe with Detective Inspector Gina Quinn, said: “We are appealing to former patients, or their next of kin and representatives, who wish to report concerns regarding their medical treatment by Michael Watt to contact police.”
DI Quinn added that it would be a “long, protracted and complex investigation”. She said those who filed reports would be contacted about the next step.
“We realise this will be a traumatic time for many people and we will endeavour to give regular updates throughout this investigation,” she added.
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