The Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, appointed Professor Ian Kennedy, Professor of Health Law, Ethics and Policy at the University College, London, to conduct an Inquiry under Section 84 of the National Health Service Act 1977.
Professor Kennedy's terms of reference are: "To inquire into the management of the care of children receiving complex cardiac surgical services at the Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1984 and 1995 and relevant related issues; to make findings as to the adequacy of the services provided; to establish what action was taken both within and outside the hospital to deal with concerns raised about the surgery and to identify any failure to take appropriate action promptly; to reach conclusions from these events and to make recommendations which could help to secure high quality care across the NHS."
The Inquiry was announced to Parliament by the Secretary of State on June 18, 1998, when he also announced the appointment of professor Kennedy.
As Chairman of the Inquiry established under the National Health Service Act 1977, Professor Kennedy has the power to require witnesses to attend the Inquiry; to give evidence on oath; and to produce documents. Criminal penalties may be imposed on anyone refusing to do so.The Secretary of State said the Inquiry would cover all aspects of what went wrong at Bristol - identifying and professional, management and organisational failures and to make recommendations to safeguard patients and their families in future.
The Inquiry was announced following hearings by the Professional Proceedings Committee of the General Medical Council which began to hear allegations against three doctors in October 1997.