Learnings and Reflections from the Independent Neurology Inquiry

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Learnings and Reflections from the Independent Neurology Inquiry

Published 27 June 2022

The Independent Neurology Inquiry has now published its’ findings. The Inquiry Chair, Mr Brett Lockhart QC, delivered a statement announcing the publication of the Inquiry Report on 21st June via live stream which is available to watch back on YouTube. A report comprising 5 volumes has also been published on the independent neurology inquiry website.

Overview

The inquiry followed Northern Ireland’s largest ever patient recall in 2018. Concerns were raised by a GP regarding Dr Michael Watt’s practice in November 2016. Dr Watt had been employed as a Consultant by the Belfast Trust and also had a significant private practice. Subsequent investigations revealed what has been described by the Inquiry as an ‘aberrant’ practice.

The inquiry considered;

  1. Whether the Trust could and should have intervened earlier but failed to do so;
  2. The actions of Trust when a GP raised the concern in November 2016;
  3. What recommendations are to be made to avoid this happening again.

The Inquiry identified key areas of concern and missed opportunities in 2006/07, 2012 and 2016, where the Trust could and should have intervened, examples being; 

  • A 5-year warning issued by the GMC in 2006/07 which was not communicated to Dr Watt’s line manager within the Belfast Trust.
  • A complaint made to a private clinic in 2012 that was not relayed to the Trust.
  • Consistent failure to comply with administrative duties.
  • Administrative errors in February 2016 to include; a missed appraisal, failure to submit a report for the Coroner in a timely manner and an anonymous complaint.
  • Concerns surrounding prescribing, practice and overuse of blood patching procedures.

The Inquiry found fault with the governance practices, not just within the Belfast Trust, but across N. Ireland, the Independent Sector and the Regulator (GMC). Overall, it was considered that there was a failure to ‘join the dots’ in each instance of missed opportunity and that information was prevented from moving freely which caused a failure to spot the pattern emerging.

Recommendations

The theme of the recommendations is transparency and openness; to encourage information sharing between medical providers and the regulator and record keeping in relation to complaints and concerns. Mr Lockhart QC has placed the onus on everyone involved in the delivery of Healthcare from the Politicians to the medical professionals; from the independent sector to the regulator; to ensure that the healthcare system makes patient safety of paramount concern.

What’s next?

There is ongoing litigation in the High Court regarding the decision by the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal to accede to an application for voluntary erasure by Dr Watt in 2021. This has been challenged by way of judicial review, the outcome of which is awaited.

Patients under Dr Watt’s care who have been misdiagnosed or mistreated will of course be seeking redress. The Inquiry’s conclusions about the failures within the governance systems of the Trusts, Independent Sector and Regulator opens the door for a plethora of litigation. The Professional & Commercial Risk team at DAC Beachcroft (N.Ireland) LLP are happy to assist with any queries you or your teams may have arising from the outcome of the Inquiry. Should you need any assistance, please contact Team Partner, Catriona McCorry.

Authors

Natasha Moffett

Natasha Moffett

Belfast

+44 (0)289 041 2848

Amanda McClimond

Amanda McClimond

Belfast

+44 (0)289 041 2817

Catriona McCorry

Catriona McCorry

Belfast

+44 (0)289 041 2834

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