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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 17:32 GMT
'Surgeons hindered baby deaths investigations'
Surgeon James Wisheart was 'red faced and angry'

Bristol whistleblower Dr Stephen Bolsin told a public inquiry how he was labelled a "troublemaker" when he tried to question death rates following child heart surgery.

The Bristol Heart Babies
In his third day of evidence, he said that the attitudes of Bristol Royal Infirmary surgeons James Wisheart and Janardan Dhasmana were "the problem".

Mr Wisheart, he said, would become "red faced and angry" if the subject was broached, and Mr Dhasmana would become "defensive".

I think that data did exist within the unit but it was not being shared
Dr Stephen Bolsin
Dr Bolsin, who is now practising in an Australian hospital, collected data when he became concerned about the death rates, which in some procedures were twice the national average.

He said he had pursued the matter through the normal channels until 1992 - four years after he joined the unit.

Dr Stephen Bolsin: 'seen as a troublemaker'
But he told the inquiry he found it impossible to discuss the problem openly because of the "enormous sensitivity" about the issue.

He said: "I think that data did exist within the unit but it was not being shared, particularly with someone like me who was seen as a troublemaker and seen as someone rocking the boat.

"That data would not be shared with me and I wanted the data to be shared with all of us."

Brian Langstaff QC, senior counsel for the inquiry, pointed out that Mr Wisheart had cooperated with a similar audit of adult heart operations, but Dr Bolsin insisted that infant mortality information was a far more sensitive issue.

Dr Bolsin's secret audit was eventually made public and prompted a massive investigation into death rates.

The multi-million pound investigation is investigating nearly 1,900 cases of children who had surgery at Bristol between 1984 and 1995.

In a General Medical Council disciplinary case preceding the inquiry, Mr Wisheart and a hospital manager Dr John Roylance were both struck off, while Mr Dhasmana was banned from operating on children.

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See also:
22 Nov 99 |  Health
Money came first, baby inquiry told
22 Nov 99 |  Health
Bolsin: the Bristol whistleblower
23 Nov 99 |  Health
Brain death 'not spotted for days'

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