Bristol heart surgeon James Wisheart has received almost pounds150,000 in 'distinction awards' since concerns were raised about his performance in complex operations on small babies, it has emerged.

A spokesperson for United Bristol Healthcare trust confirmed that Mr Wisheart had received bonuses rising from pounds35,815 in 1994 to pounds38,995 last year and that he would receive a similar bonus this year.

The former medical director of the trust is currently at the centre of a General Medical Council hearing focusing on the deaths of 29 babies operated on by him and a second surgeon, Janardan Dhasmana, between 1988 and 1995.

The trust spokesperson said: 'The awards are bestowed by the Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards, a national body, and not by the trust. 'The award is given on an annual basis until the consultant retires. Mr Wisheart is due to retire this year.'

Mr Wisheart, Mr Dhasmana, and former trust chief executive John Roylance, who is accused of failing to act on warnings about the performance of the two surgeons, all deny charges of serious professional misconduct.

Mr Wisheart is due to give evidence in his defence this week.