The impact of the Conservative government's NHS reforms will come under the spotlight at the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry.

Brian Langstaff QC, counsel to the inquiry, told its opening session that an expert group was being assembled to assist the inquiry, which is investigating the treatment of babies undergoing complex heart surgery at the hospital.

He said the group would include experts in a wide range of areas, including surgery, paediatric care, audit and 'NHS management and finance in the 1980s and 1990s'.

The inquiry, chaired by Professor Ian Kennedy, has a wider remit than the General Medical Council, which struck off two surgeons and censured a third after a hearing last year.

The GMC examined 29 deaths and 53 cases involving two types of heart operation. The inquiry will look at 2,000 patients treated over 12 years.

Mr Langstaff said 3,136 medical records and 28,720 other documents had already been put on a database.

The inquiry is expected to last 18 months and cost£15m.

www.bristol-inquiry.org.uk