Coroner to probe deaths of patients treated by Dr Michael Watt

Michael Watt. Pic Pacemaker
Dr Michael Watt.

A coroner is to examine the hospital deaths of a number of patients who were treated by neurologist Dr Michael Watt. Coroner Joe McCrisken held a number of pre-inquest reviews at Laganside Courthouse on Monday, where he said he would seek to obtain notes and documents relating to the care provided by the neurologist – who was at the centre of Northern Ireland’s largest ever patient recall. In 2018, more than 4,000 of Dr Watt’s patients attended recall appointments amid concerns over his clinical practice.

There have been a number of inquiries into the clinical practice of the neurologist, and the PSNI is currently carrying out an investigation. Last year he was struck off the medical register after a tribunal found his fitness to practise was currently impaired and that his professional performance was unacceptable. The inquest process follows a review of the cases of a number of deceased patients of Dr Watt carried out by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA). Mr McCrisken held reviews in the cases of four patients of Dr Watt who had died in hospital. The coroner said he would be seeking relevant notes and documents from GPs and relevant health trusts in all the cases. He added: “There is an issue in terms of Dr Watt’s ability or fitness to attend potentially in a hearing of this inquest. That is because of various medical reports. “That will be a matter I will have to determine afresh. I determine if he is a witness to the inquest.” Regarding the PSNI probe, the coroner said: “The question as to whether the inquest can proceed alongside a police investigation will be perhaps determined by the scope of the inquest. “I will seek an update from the police. The police have the power to request that I adjourn an inquest if an individual is to be prosecuted with a series of offences.” Mr McCrisken said he would review the cases again later in the year. In November, detectives launched an investigation into the clinical practices of Dr Watt and an appeal has been made for former patients to come forward. Dr Watt worked for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, and also held private clinics at Hillsborough Private Clinic and the Ulster Independent Clinic.

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