Statement by Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly on patient recall at the Belfast Trust.
The Department is very aware of the significant concerns which many patients and their families are currently experiencing and offers them our support and sympathy during what must be an extremely anxious time for them.
The Department’s first priority is to ensure the Belfast Trust promptly completes the recall process so that all of the patients who are part of Dr Watt’s caseload are reviewed to ensure that their diagnosis is appropriate and that they are receiving the right type of treatment and care.
There are clearly important wider questions which will need to be addressed both to fully understand and assess the impact of what has happened and also to ensure that we can have confidence in the safety of neurology services now and in the future.
The Department has therefore directed RQIA to undertake a review of governance of outpatient services in the Belfast Trust with a particular focus on neurology services. The review will then be extended as part of its rolling programme of inspections to cover all five HSC Trusts in NI. Terms of Reference for this work are currently being developed with the RQIA and the RQIA has already begun the planning of this important review.
The Department has also asked the RQIA to commission a parallel piece of work to ensure that the records of all patients or former patients of Dr Watt who have died over the past ten years are subject to expert review. Further details and arrangements for this work will be announced over the next two weeks.
We will also be reviewing how this whole process has been handled since the Belfast Trust first became aware of concerns about Dr Watt’s practice.