Michael Watt: Doctor at center of Northern Ireland patient recall ‘unhappy’, Stormont committee said
The doctor at the center of the largest patient recall ever in Northern Ireland is “sick”, according to the General Medical Council (GMC).
iving evidence to Stormont’s health committee on Thursday morning, Anthony Omo, general counsel and director of fitness to practice at the regulator, said this played a role in the decision to remove the former neurologist of the medical register.
âI think it’s well known that Michael Watt is not feeling well and so you can assume that was part of what was envisioned,â he said.
However, Mr Omo said he was unable to provide further details as the information is private.
It emerged during the proof session that the doctor had made two previous requests for voluntary erasure before a third request was finally accepted.
The GMC told the committee that the first two requests had been reviewed by the GMC case reviewers.
The third claim was heard and granted by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
The GMC came under fire during the hearing, amid accusations from committee members that public confidence in its ability to hold doctors to account has been shaken by developments in the Michael Watt case.
This comes after the MPTS reviewed the former neurologist’s request in private.
Although he delivered his decision last month, he did not disclose the reasons why the request was granted.
The MPTS is the body responsible for conducting physicians’ fitness to practice hearings and makes independent decisions on cases referred by the GMC.
Following the decision to authorize the removal of Dr Watt from the medical register, he will not face any charge that his fitness to practice has been impaired nor will he be subject to professional sanctions.
A fitness to practice hearing would have been the forum where he was held accountable for the alleged shortcomings and concerns raised about his treatment of patients.
Charlie Massey, chief executive and registrar of the GMC, told the health committee that the MPTS plans to release a redacted version of the reasons why Dr Watt was removed from the medical register.
He said the MPTS hopes to release the document next week.
Mr. Massey also explained his decision not to prosecute the MPTS decision, which was described by SDLP MP Colin McGrath as “dismal”.
In response, he said: âI understand your argument that the GMC is seen as unnecessary at best and the disappointment of not proceeding with judicial review.
âWhen I am faced with a legal opinion that says we literally have no chance of success with this process, I reluctantly concluded that it would be misleading to continue with the process.
âI think it would be very difficult to convey to the patients who have been so terribly affected that we are launching a process that would lead to to some sort of justice or accountability when we were absolutely clear in our minds that this was not going to be where it would end up.
âI would feel like I was terribly misleading patients as to the direction this process would take.
“I recognize that there will be a number of voices and I totally respect this point of view which will say that despite all this” you should have made this decision to continue because it would have given some hope to these patients “.
“I think hope would have been so low that it would have created false expectations and I think it wouldn’t have been right for the patients.”
Mr Massey also told the committee that the GMC planned to make a strong case that Michael Watt should be removed from the medical register and that he was allowed to perform the hearing.