About Professor Merrilyn Walton

I have dedicated my professional life to making the health system safer and more transparent to patients. I have direct experience of trying to enhance the engagement of patients in their health care and over the last decade have been involved in examining ways to improve the patient experience. I am internationally known for my work in patient safety education and the regulation of health practitioners. My areas of expertise are patient safety, ethical health care and professional accountability. These disciplines and areas of knowledge necessarily imply a multidisciplinary base. I have extensive experience in social science research covering mixed methods. My research has always been multidisciplinary based with colleagues from both the sciences and humanities. I was one of the major architects of the NSW Health Care Complaints Act as well as one of the original investigator (2003) on the research that led to the National Open Disclosure Standards endorsed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality. My research on patient safety and the development of the Patient Safety Education Framework has meant that patient safety principles and concepts have now been included in most education and regulatory instruments. The Framework which has specific competencies for complaints, open disclosure and professionalism has been used in the following: • The Australian Medical Council requirements for accreditation of all medical schools in Australia (2008) • Patient safety is central to the new Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009.(2010) • The Australian Curriculum Framework for Junior Doctors (2008) • The WHO Patient Safety Curriculum for Medical Schools (2009) • The WHO patient safety curriculum for health professionals (2011) • The NSW Hospitalist Program (2009) • The Patient Safety curriculum for interns and residents in NSW(2010) • The Preparation for Safe Practice as an Intern program NSW (2011)

My research involves examining how medical errors impact on junior doctors and how to make the health system safer for patients in hospitals. I have developed patient safety curricula for the World Health Organization and the curricula are being used in health professional education world-wide. I am currently a lead investigator on a study that aims to compare the complaints system in NSW with the new national health practitioner regulation system. This study will enable evidence –based policy to guide the development of the most effective complaint systems. I am also involved in investigating what happens to complaints at the hospital level and whether improvements are made as a result of complaint investigations and recommendations. I have been the convenor/chair of 6 Ministerial/Government Inquiries; I have had 11 international collaborative involving the following countries: USA, Canada, Vietnam, China, Manila, Japan, Saudi Arabia; 12 consultancies in USA, Japan Ministry of Health, Vietnam Medical University, WHO, DOHA, NSW Health and written 17 major reports for Governments( state and national). My involvement in health care regulation spans 25 years.

As an academic my work encompasses research (60%), teaching (15%) and numerous national and international committees on regulation, patient safety and curriculum development (25%) for the medical and other health professions. In addition to my international work in patient safety with the World Health Organization (WHO) I am a statutory member of the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency; the legal oversight body for all the health professions. I am also a statutory member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee; one of 4 principal committees advising the NHMRC. I am a visiting Professor to North Western University. In my 11 years as an academic I have received a grant total of $3,213.508.

Current grants
2011 (ARC Linkage)
• National registration of health practitioners: a comparative study of the complaints and notification system under the national system and in NSW
Chiarella M, Walton M, Bennett B, Carney T, Kelly P, Foster J
ARC Linkage Project ($ $1,100264 over 4 years)

2010 (ARC Discovery)
• Resolving patients? Complaints about hospitals: responsive regulation by health ombudsmen
Walton M, Healy J, Braithwaite J $ 300,000

2011 Clinical Education and training Institute, NSW (CETI) grant
• Development of a Preparation for Safe Practice as an Intern Program. $35,000I have had over 26 years of experience in health professional regulation and patient safety. My experience in complaint management and professional regulation is unsurpassed in this country. I was a principal architect of the NSW Health Care Complaints Act which stands as one of the most effective systems for complaint management. My interests since becoming an academic focus on establishing an evidence base for regulatory policy decisions. Research output in this area has been slow and difficult but the establishment of a national regulation scheme offers the opportunity to create a vibrant research community.

Selected publications

For a comprehensive list of Professor Walton's publications, please visit her Sydney Medical School academic profile.