Swift settlement of Bristol heart claims promised

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PARENTS of children who died or were brain damaged after being operated on by surgeons involved in the Bristol children's heart surgery disaster were yesterday promised speedy settlement of their claims for compensation.

Letters are being posted today to the families of 32 children who died who have submitted claims to the NHS Litigation Authority. It is understood they are being offered more than pounds 10,000 to settle claims, above the minimum "tariff" of pounds 7,500 for a bereavement involving a child.

The authority will deal later with cases involving children who were brain damaged, which will be more complex and involve bigger sums. Compensation has to be sufficient to provide care for the children for the rest of their lives and could run into millions of pounds.

Some estimates have suggested the authority could face total claims of pounds 20m after the General Medical Council's inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary. The council investigated the cases of 53 children operated on by James Wisheart and Janardan Dhasmana, and found they had ignored the warnings of colleagues about their high death- rate and had misled parents about the risks.

Mr Wisheart, Mr Dhasmana and their chief executive, John Roylance, were found guilty of serious professional misconduct. Mr Wisheart and Dr Roylance were struck off the medical register and Mr Dhasmana was banned from performing heart surgery on children for three years.