Surgeon steps down over deaths inquiry

The work of a distinguished heart surgeon is being investigated after the trust he works for was criticised for having above-average paediatric cardiac deaths, it was announced yesterday.

James Wisheart has voluntarily stepped down from clinical duties and from his post as medical director of the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust in order to co-operate with the independent review.

The decision followed two years of controversy at the Bristol Royal Infirmary where Mr Wisheart was an influential member of the cardiac unit using a pioneering technique to operate on babies.

But the operations were later halted after an internal audit revealed higher-than-average number of deaths among children between 1990 and 1995.

An internal review revealed friction among senior staff and a subsequent inquiry has now decided that although case notes show deaths were average, Mr Wisheart's performance will be investigated by a panel of experts. Louise Jury

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