Police meet with health officials following patient recall

Police are assessing whether any potential criminal offences can be identified after more than 3,000 neurology patients were recalled by health authorities in Belfast.

Belfast neurologist Dr Michael Watt is suspended from practising medicine.

A BBC Spotlight programme this week aired claims around his use of a procedure on patients known as a blood patch, which involves injecting a person’s own blood into their spines.

Spotlight reported an increase in the number of epidural blood patches carried out at the Belfast Trust in 2015 and 2016.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statement said: “We are aware of the recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and have met with senior officials within the Department of Health to discuss the issue.

“The department has agreed to provide us with further information so that we can assess how best to move forward and to enable us to determine if any potential criminal offences can be identified.”

According to the NHS, a severe headache can be caused if the bag of fluid that surrounds the spine is accidentally punctured.

A procedure known as a blood patch may be used to seal up the puncture. It involves taking a small sample of the patient’s own blood and injecting it into the puncture.

A major neurology review sparked by concerns about Dr Watt’s work has been ongoing.

A total of 3,544 former patients of Dr Watt had been or were in the process of being recalled, the Department of Health said previously. Many have epilepsy.

Patients who were being actively treated by Dr Watt have already been seen.

Some who had been seen by the consultant but discharged to the care of their GPs and prescribed medications for neurological conditions were also to be offered appointments, Stormont’s health authorities said.

The medications include anti-epileptic drugs, immunosuppressants and disease modifying therapies which are used to treat conditions like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

Patients were drawn from the NHS and two private clinics where Dr Watt practised.

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