The public inquiry into the heart baby deaths set up in the wake of action against three Bristol doctors should consider forcing consultants to requalify every five years, a leading health policy analyst said this week.

'Pilots have to renew their licences every six months in case they crash jets, ' Professor Alan Maynard of York University commented. 'Yet nobody is focusing on re-accreditation for consultants in the light of the Bristol case.'

Evidence presented to the General Medical Council showed that there had been a lamentable failure to use routine procedures and change practice when things went wrong , he said .

The inquiry was announced by health secretary Frank Dobson after the GMC decided to strike off senior heart surgeon James Wisheart and former United Bristol Healthcare trust chief executive John Roylance.

It banned Janardan Dhasmana from operating on children for three years.

The inquiry, to be chaired by Ian Kennedy, professor of health law, ethics and policy at University College London, cannot begin yet because the two struck off doctors may appeal to the privy council.

Mr Dobson told BBC Newsnight that he would strip Mr Wisheart and Dr Roylance of their£50,000-plus merit awards, which were taken into account in calculating the level of their pensions when they retired. He said: 'I believe that I could take them away if they were still working for us. I don't see why I can't take them away now.'

Department of Health officials are working on how such a move might be possible.

The GMC findings are being 'looked at' by police but Inspector Keith Jones of Bristol police denied that this amounted to an investigation.