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Tuesday, January 19, 1999 Published at 04:35 GMT

Bristol heart probe sets out inquiry terms

Angry families campaigned for a public inquiry

Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford assesses the scope of the inquiry
The public inquiry into the deaths of the Bristol heart operation babies will cover a wide range of issues, including children who were brain-damaged or disabled as a result of heart surgery.

The inquiry was formally opened last October, but the time since then has been spent preparing the areas of investigation.

The Bristol Heart Babies
The scope of the inquiry, led by Professor Ian Kennedy QC, will cover an investigation into the role of medical royal colleges, the General Medical Council, the Department of Health, different health authorities and the British Medical Association.

But Professor Kennedy said on Tuesday that the inquiry "will not be a trial".

[ image: James Wisheart: struck off]
James Wisheart: struck off
Consultant James Wisheart and Dr John Roylance, chief executive of the hospital trust, were both struck off the medical register after the GMC found they had continued to operate on babies and young children despite high death rates.

A third consultant, Janardan Dhasmana, was banned from operating on children for three years and was later dismissed.

[ image: Grieving parents were unhappy with the GMC probe]
Grieving parents were unhappy with the GMC probe
Next year the inquiry will examine the wider issues for the NHS arising from the events at the Royal Infirmary.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson set up the inquiry after a General Medical Council (GMC) investigation into the three doctors found them guilty of professional misconduct.

Relatives of babies and children who died say the GMC probe failed to address all the issues.

[ image: Janardan Dhasmana: dismissed]
Janardan Dhasmana: dismissed
Only two types of operation were investigated and many alleged examples of surgery which resulted in brain damage to young patients were exempt.

The inquiry, which had a preliminary hearing last year, is expected to start in Bristol in March before moving to London some months later.

Malcolm Curnow, whose nine-month-old daughter Verity died after surgery at the hospital, said: "We are very hopeful that this inquiry will address all the concerns we have.

"I expect we will want some issues added, but we feel we can work with the inquiry."

Transcripts of the hearings will go on the Internet the same day.

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