Neurologist at patient call center ‘can’t handle’ hearing

A newly published court ruling said a neurologist at Northern Ireland’s largest patient recall center was «unable to participate» in a public hearing about his fitness to practice.

The ruling by the Chamber of Medical Practitioners stated that there was no way for such a hearing to be held «in a manner that would be fair» to Michael Watt.

Last month, the service announced that it had met in private and granted a request by Dr Watt, formerly of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, to have him removed from the medical record.

This means he can no longer practice medicine in the UK.

A hearing in Dr Watt’s case was expected this month, but he was unable to move forward after it was removed from the record.

Several separate inquiries are underway into his work after thousands of his patients were recalled in 2018 amid fears of misdiagnosis of brain diseases.

The service has now published a revised version of its decision in Dr Watt’s case.

The ruling stated: “The authority considered that the public interest in this case is delicately balanced. It considered that the strong public interest in this case requires a decision by a court except in exceptional circumstances.”

It continued: «The court noted that Dr. Watt’s inability to deal with the fitness for exercise of the hearing meant that such a hearing could not have been held in a manner fair to the physician. This circumstance greatly diminished the public interest in such a session.

“The court also considered that the reputation of the profession and its regulator would not be preserved by insisting on a hearing.”

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The court concluded that Dr. Watt’s «inability to engage in the substantive hearing process» meant that a request for voluntary removal from the medical record should be allowed.

Earlier this month, the chief executive of the General Medical Council (GMC) told the Stormont Commission that the service’s decision to allow Dr Watt to voluntarily leave the medical record, had a «radical impact» on trust and confidence in the organization, MLAs were said.

Charlie Massey, CEO of GMC, said: “We at GMC are deeply disappointed by this decision. It was not the decision we wanted and we fully sympathize with the disappointed patients.”

He added: «I am fully aware, and one of the things that makes me very concerned, is that this issue and the decision that the MPs have taken [service] It may have a significant impact on confidence in regulation in Northern Ireland.

«I really feel very upset on behalf of those patients who feel they have been left unable to get answers to what happened in terms of clinical performance deficiencies and why their lives have changed so terribly.» – PA

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