Last week Dr Michael Watt, a Former Belfast Trust neurologist, was removed from the medical register. This means he can no longer practise medicine in the UK.
Dr Michael Watt and his conduct has been the focus of high-level investigations since the recall of neurology patients in Northern Ireland in 2018.
Open and transparent
We expected these investigations to include public evidence sessions. However, following a decision by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) to allow Michael Watt to voluntarily remove himself from the medical register, there will not be a public hearing into his performance and practice.
We're hugely disappointed by this decision. We feel it would've been in the public interest for the allegations to be heard by the tribunal in an open and transparent way.
We've sent the below response to the MPTS.
Our letter to the Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service
Dear Dame Caroline,
I am writing on behalf of the Northern Ireland Council of the MS Society with regard to the recent decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal to accept an application for voluntary erasure from the Medical Register in the case of Michael Watt. The GMC reference in this case is 3079087.
There is a high degree of public interest in this matter in Northern Ireland where this individual’s practice resulted in the largest patient recall in the history of the NHS. On review, one-third of the patients recalled were found to have received an unsafe diagnosis from this individual. The outcomes for many patients affected by his practice have been life changing and the harm and hurt caused affects patients, their families and carers.
Media coverage of these matters, particularly that from BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme has reflected the experience of many patients who underwent seemingly unnecessary procedures while under his care. The most recently broadcast material suggests this individual acted inappropriately in a range of areas. Mobile communications from Michael Watt to a patient, highlighted by BBC Spotlight, also raise questions about his attitude to the management and accountability processes triggered as a result of concerns about his performance and practice.
It is our view that in permitting voluntary erasure from the Medical Register, the MPTS has failed to discharge its responsibility to ensure that public confidence is maintained in the medical profession. Patients now widely hold the view that the Tribunal’s decision in this case is an example of the medical profession closing ranks and protecting one of its own. This decision has denied patients the opportunity to see this individual held to account for his actions and to see medical professional standards upheld.
We are deeply disappointed by the Tribunal’s decision regarding Michael Watt. It leaves thousands of patients without answers and without closure. We therefore must register our disappointment and our opposition to the decision reached in this case.
Council Chair | MS Society Northern Ireland