ANSWERS are needed as to why it took so long to recall more than 2,500 neurology patients, an MLA has claimed.
Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs said concerns were first raised more than 16 months ago and Dr Michael Watt has not seen patients since last June.
He said it “seems inexplicable” that it has taken almost a further year for a review to conclude and patients to be contacted by the Belfast health trust.
“There is a very real possibility that some patients may have been misdiagnosed and have still been receiving the wrong treatment over all this time,” he said.
“Whilst I really hope it hasn’t happened, I fear that some patients may have come to some harm in the intervening period. Why has it taken so long before patients have been contacted?
“Lessons need to be learnt to reduce the likelihood of this happening again and to speed up the review process.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan called for an urgent meeting with the chief executive of the Belfast trust.
“It is vital the 2,500 patients concerned receive their review as a matter of urgency and are provided with any care or support they require,” he said.
“This will be a stressful and worrying time for the patients concerned and it’s important they are kept fully informed.”
The SDLP’s Mark H Durkan said he has also written to the permanent secretary of the Department of Health and the head of the trust to request urgent meetings.
“I have requested these meeting to ask how this has happened and seek assurances that it will never happen again.”
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Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said news of the recall “will cause significant concern for all the patients affected and their families”.
She said she had spoken to the trust and had been assured any patient receiving a letter will have their review meeting within 12 weeks.
She added: “I am now seeking to ensure that the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority is engaged to conduct a review of governance arrangements across all five health trusts.
“We hear every day the health service is under tremendous pressures and staff members have extremely high workloads, so it is important patients can be assured all measures are in place to ensure safe diagnoses and associated, appropriate treatment plans.”
The DUP’s Paula Bradley also said the recall will be “alarming to individuals involved and impact on their families and loved ones too”.
“This episode demonstrates the importance of having effective controls in place, ongoing monitoring of professional performance and the benefits of people speaking up when they feel something isn’t quite right.”
Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society Northern Ireland, said that while they are “deeply concerned” about the announcement, they are pleased that a helpline has been established and the trust has committed to provide review appointments within 12 weeks.
“We will be in continued contact with Belfast trust to ensure that the views and concerns of people affected by MS are represented.
“Our priority is the well-being and safety of people with MS, and to ensure open and transparent communication with everyone impacted.”
Belfast Trust: 0800 980 1100
Ulster Independent Clinic: 028 9068 6511
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