Major PSNI investigation into work of former Belfast consultant neurologist Michael Watt

Police have launched a major investigation into the clinical practices of former Belfast Consultant Neurologist Michael Watt.

The neurologist was at the centre of the UK's largest ever recall of patients in 2018.

More than 4,000 of his patients attended recall appointments amid concerns over his clinical practice.

Launching their investigation, police said it was too early in their case to go into what potential offences may have been committed.

A senior officer explained how it was time for the launch of their investigation following complaints from the public and in light of the number of reviews carried out into Dr Watt's medical practice.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness said investigators would be speaking with Dr Watt, health trust staff, and former patients to listen to their concerns and to gather evidence.

Twenty individuals so far have made a complaint to police, with police saying the investigation would be "long, complex and protracted".

Dr Michael Watt.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness added: “Operation Begrain is the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s investigation into the clinical practices of Michael Watt, who is a former consultant neurologist.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness with Detective Inspector Aine Quinn.

“Michael Watt worked for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, and also held private clinics at Hillsborough Private Clinic and the Ulster Independent Clinic. 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.

“In order to make this as easy as possible, we have ensured there are a number of ways that people can report their concerns.

“A dedicated online reporting platform has been created on our police website which contains all relevant information, including a QR code and link to the Major Incident Public Portal operation/PSNI22R20-PO1.

"Here, there are two separate forms with a number of key questions. One is specifically for, or on behalf of, patients and the other is for representatives of patients who have sadly died.

“We would encourage you to use the online reporting form where possible as it will guide you through the questions we need answered and is available 24 hours a day. It is the quickest and easiest way to report.

“However, for anyone unable to use the online reporting facility, we have set up a helpline number which will operate between 9.30am and 3.30pm from Monday to Friday.  If you use the phone line you will be guided through the same online reporting form, assisted by a member of police staff.

“The dedicated webpage also contains an email address for the investigation team for general queries in relation to Operation Begrain.

“We recognise wholeheartedly that this will be a harrowing time for many. Importantly, the webpage includes details of various available support networks.”

Detective Inspector Gina Quinn, who will jointly be leading the investigation, outlined the process that will follow reports being received.

She said: “In the weeks following your report, you will receive a letter by email from the investigation team explaining how you can contact the team in the future and outlining to you what the next steps will be.

“Once we have a better understanding of how many people wish to engage with police we will be able to update on predicted timeframes. What I can say with confidence at this stage though is it will be a long, protracted and complex investigation.

“We realise this will be a traumatic time for many people and we will endeavour to give regular updates throughout this investigation.”

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