Barristers for three doctors who face misconduct proceedings following the deaths of babies after heart surgery will this week call for the cases against them to be thrown out.

They said on Monday they intended to make 'substantial and detailed submissions' to the General Medical Council that the hearing should be stopped.

Duncan Matheson QC, counsel for James Wisheart, former medical director of United Bristol Healthcare trust, told the GMC's professional conduct committee that he and his fellow barristers had spent all weekend drawing up grounds for the case to be 'stopped'.

He was backed by Nicola Davies QC, counsel for surgeon Janardan Dhasmana, and Robert Francis QC, counsel for former trust chief executive John Roylance, who indicated that they too would be making substantial applications for elements of the case to be thrown out.

It was not known whether the submissions will involve all the charges, but a legal source said privately that the submissions, if upheld, would 'drive a coach and horses' through the council case.

The committee adjourned briefly so that the defence teams could study new papers obtained by the GMC from the trust.

Roger Henderson QC, for the GMC, was due this week to conclude its case against the three before the defence applications are heard.

It is known the submissions will be strenuously opposed.

This is the biggest hearing held by the committee in more than 11 years and involves the death rate of babies operated on at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The committee heard that nine of the 15 babies on whom Mr Wisheart had operated for the correction of atrioventricular septal defects between April 1990 and August 1994 had died.

Mr Wisheart and Mr Dhasmana are accused of continuing open heart surgery on children despite continual warnings that too many of them were dying.

Dr Roylance is accused of failing to heed the warnings from senior professional colleagues about the mortality and morbidity rates at the infirmary.

The three deny all charges.