What is the Independent Neurology Inquiry about?

The Independent Neurology Inquiry was established to review the circumstances which led to the recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. The Terms of Reference provide further detail.

Who set up the Independent Neurology Inquiry?

The Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, announced the establishment of an Independent Inquiry in May 2018.   The Minister for Health, Robin Swann, converted the Independent Neurology Inquiry to a statutory public inquiry on the 11th December 2020.

What are the Independent Neurology Inquiry’s terms of reference?

The Inquiry will carry out the tasks required by its revised terms of reference Revised Independent Neurology Inquiry Terms of Reference 11 December 2020 (PDF 44 KB). It cannot go outside them, or beyond them. The Inquiry will however interpret its own Terms of Reference.

Who is chairing the Independent Neurology Inquiry?

The Independent Neurology Inquiry is Chaired by Brett Lockhart, QC. 

How was the Chair appointed?

The Chair was appointed by the Departmental Solicitor.

Who sits on the Independent Neurology Inquiry Panel?

The panel presently consists of Brett Lockhart, QC, and Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor. Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor has significant experience in clinical governance. He is an internationally recognised expert with a distinguished background having worked in the NHS as a Clinical Director, Medical Director and a Director of Commissioning. He also previously served as medical director of the health service regulatory body Monitor (now NHS Improvement) and as Special Administrator resolving the problems of Mid Stafford and as Executive Medical Director of the healthcare practice of Ernst Young.

Who appointed the Inquiry’s panel member?

The Department of Health appointed the panel member, following their approach to the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management to identify a panel member with suitable clinical leadership expertise.

Who appointed the Inquiry’s legal team?

Departmental Solicitors Office appointed the Inquiry Solicitor, who is responsible, in consultation with the Inquiry Chair for any other subsequent legal appointments to the Inquiry.

How were the secretarial staff selected?

The secretariat staff are on loan from the Northern Ireland Civil Service, selected on the basis of their experience.

Will the Inquiry consider the clinical practice of Dr Michael Watt?

The clinical practice of Dr Michael Watt is being investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) and employer led processes under Departmental Guidance on ‘Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern HPSS’. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for the Inquiry to encroach on the GMC’s remit or employer led processes.

However, the Panel will consider the role of the Trust as an employer in terms of professional practice in the context of the Trust’s system of Governance during the period covered by the Independent Inquiry.

Will the Independent Neurology Inquiry find anyone guilty?

The Inquiry is not a trial of any particular body or individual. Rather, the Inquiry will establish the facts. It will do so in an inquisitorial manner through obtaining documents, receipt of information from patients and family members in addition to evidence from interested parties.

What is the timeframe for completion of the Independent Neurology Inquiry

The Inquiry panel has a duty to carry out their work fairly and thoroughly, and to produce a reliable and evidence based report of their findings.

There are a number of stages which the Inquiry must go through, including:

  • Setting up the Inquiry
  • Gathering the relevant information
  • Gathering and collating the views of patients and family members
  • Consideration of the information
  • Questioning the relevant individuals about the evidence gathered
  • Reflection upon the evidence gathered
  • Drafting a report and
  • Finalising a report

As such, the Inquiry will take time and it is not possible at this stage to provide a precise timeframe as to how long the Inquiry will take.

Will the Independent Neurology Inquiry reports be made public?

It will be a matter for the Department of Health to make a decision on the publication of the report.

Is the Inquiry independent of Government Departments?

Yes, the Inquiry is completely independent of Government Departments.

If I have information that I believe may be of interest to the Inquiry, what should I do?

If you have information which you consider to be of interest to the Inquiry, you should contact the Inquiry team by writing to info@neurologyinquiry.org.uk

The Panel wish to take into account the views of patients and families and has developed a questionnaire as the best means of doing that. The Questionnaire and Guidance Notes can be viewed/downloaded on the Key Documents Page Key Documents 

What are the Inquiry’s contact details?

Written correspondence should be sent to:

Independent Neurology Inquiry
Bradford Court
1 Bradford Court
Telephone number: 028 9025 1133
Email: info@neurologyinquiry.org.uk