Professor William (Bill) Runciman, has been described “one of the true pioneers of the patient safety movement”. He retired from clinical practice in 2007 after 38 years (19 as Head of the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and University of Adelaide) to concentrate on full-time patient safety research at the University of South Australia.
Bill has always been at the forefront of Patient Safety. In 1988 he formed the Australian Patient Safety Foundation, which pre-dated other national and international healthcare-wide patient safety bodies by over a decade. This group was commissioned to develop the content of the International Classification for Patient Safety by WHO.
He was a member of a National Task Force for Patient Safety (1996-1998), the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Healthcare (2000-2005), and the Australian Health Information Council (2003-2005), Inaugural Chair of the Safety and Quality of Practice Committee of the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (1992-2000) and co-chair of a Research Methods and Measures group in 2004 when the World Alliance for Patient Safety was established.
His foundational work in defining patient safety concepts and terms and in classification development has transformed the knowledge base of this field, and the setting of standards for safety in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care has changed clinical practice forever; several causes of brain damage and death have been consigned to the history books in countries which have adopted them. There are now moves by the WFSA and WHO to apply these world-wide.