The Bristol inquiry is to pass its final report to health secretary Alan Milburn next month.

The inquiry, which was due to publish its findings by the end of last year, this week said work was still in progress on the final drafts of the report, which will be sent to Mr Milburn 'during the month of May'.

The likelihood of a general election in June means that in theory publication of the report - which was expected to be held off in the context of a 3 May election - could still happen in the term of the current Parliament, if ministers were so m inded .

But a general election on 7 June would mean the dissolution of parliament by 15 May, giving the government little time to consider and publish the Bristol findings, however early in the month they received the inquiry's report.

An annex of expert papers and reports already in the public domain has been made available to Mr Milburn.

The final report will have two sections: 'The Bristol Story', and 'The Future', as well as two annexes and will be available on CD-ROM.

It will consider the organisational, managerial and professional failures that contributed to the problems in paediatric heart surgery at the BRI.

In a statement, the inquiry team warned that producing the report was a 'considerable logistical exercise'.

The first annex of the report - an account of the evidence relating to paediatric cardiac services in Bristol presented during the first phase of the inquiry - alone amounts to some 3,000 pages.

That warning adds weight to suggestions that publication of the inquiry's report will be held off until a new government is in place.

The inquiry also reiterated that no drafts or copies of the final report or any part of it have been made available to anyone.

The Department of Health said it was 'difficult to say when it will be published when we haven't even seen the report yet'.