Health secretary Frank Dobson announced the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry on 18 June 1998, after the General Medical Council struck off United Bristol Healthcare trust heart surgeon and former medical director, James Wisheart, and former chief executive Dr John Roylance.
The GMC also ruled that a second surgeon, Janardan Dhasmana, should not operate on children for three years.
The cases centred on the trust's death rates for two types of heart operation performed on babies and children, which were much higher than those recorded at other centres. The GMC heard evidence from consultant anaesthetist Steve Bolsin, who explained that he had collected data and tried to persuade the surgeons to stop operating. He had also alerted managers - and eventually the media - to the problems.
The inquiry is looking at the management of complex paediatric cardiac surgery in the trust and its predecessor organisations from 1984 to1995 (see news focus, page 14, 11 March). It has a wider remit than the GMC inquiry, looking at the national and local background to the case and the implications for the NHS as a whole.