Northern Ireland

Newspaper headlines: Fears and questions over patient recall

Daily Mirror front page Tuesday 2 May Image copyright Daily Mirror
News Letter front page Tuesday 2 May Image copyright News Letter

"What if I've been taking the wrong drugs all this time?"

That's the headline in the Irish News and it relates to the recall of 2,500 neurology patients following a review of a consultant's work.

The question is asked by Deirdre Walford, who says she was "floored" by a letter setting out concerns about Dr Michael Watt, a neurologist based at the Belfast Health Trust and who also worked at two private clinics.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is now questioning the original diagnosis and the drugs she was prescribed.

"I was never happy with the care provided by Dr Watt and I continually questioned it," she told the paper. "He wasn't very happy with my approach."

Dedicating several pages to the story, the paper's editorial calls it the "biggest such recall in Northern Ireland".

'Figured it out'

It says few details have been provided about the nature of the issues identified but "we are told the recall follows a review of patient notes by the Belfast Trust and the Royal College of Physicians".

The paper's health correspondent says patients who received letters were getting in touch with the press on Tuesday to express their fears - and they were also questioning the time it took for the trust to formally notify them.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Neurological conditions include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease

"While Belfast health trust chiefs say they had to follow procedures and carry out internal reviews after whistleblower doctors first contacted them in December 2016 before ordering an independent probe, the 17-month delay in informing patients remains a considerable one."

The Belfast Telegraph has spoken to a woman who says she made a formal complaint against Dr Watt in 2011 after he misdiagnosed her.

Melissa McCullough, who is a senior health official, claimed he diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis, instead of neurological Lyme disease.

"I had a late stage of neurological Lyme disease, which can be life-threatening at that stage," she said.

"It was actually my sister who figured it out. She's a GP in the US and, after hospitalisation from the massive dose of steroids Dr Watt prescribed, she became aware of my symptoms and called my own GP, who took the right steps."

The paper says there are more questions than answers at this stage but it makes it clear that Dr Watt was treating patients with conditions such as motor neurone disease, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease, and "a mistaken diagnosis or incorrect medication really could mean the difference between life and death".

'The message'

The Daily Mirror is the only paper not to have the patient recall on its front page.

Instead, it leads with the death of a man from Coleraine while on holiday in Majorca.

Aaron Henderson died on Sunday following a suspected assault in the resort of Magaluf.

Image copyright mmuenzl
Image caption Magaluf is a popular tourist resort on the Spanish island of Majorca

His partner Danielle Baxter posted a message online: "I love you Aaron Hendy Henderson always and forever. He made me the happiest I've ever been in my entire life."

Democratic Unionist Party councillor Trevor Clarke told the paper he was from a very well-known family who have a wholesale business.

Another story covered in all the papers is the so-called "gay cake" case, which has been going on for four years and the latest legal challenge was brought before the Supreme Court.

Ashers Bakery is challenging the ruling over its decision not to make a cake iced with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" for activist Gareth Lee.

The News Letter says the UK's highest court, which was sitting in Belfast, heard that the owners of the bakery were "being punished by the state for the Christian beliefs".

Before entering the court, the bakery's general manager Daniel McArthur reiterated that "their problem has always been the message, not the customer".

"We'd served him before, we'd serve him again," he said.