A major project to reduce the number of patients harmed in Australia's hospitals has been awarded $8.4 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants.

This comes on top of $17.7 million already awarded to the University to advance understanding of HIV and hepatitis, and makes UNSW the most successful recipient of Program Grant funding to start in 2009.

UNSW received a total of $26.1 million, followed by its affiliate the Garvan Institute with $21.7 million.

"A million adverse events occur in general practice each year in Australia," said Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, one of the project's Chief Investigators. The team is looking at underlying problems in Australia's health system that harm one in ten hospital patients each year.

The team leaders are internationally recognised for their exceptional leadership in the field of patient safety. They bring together clinical expertise and research and evaluation skills to solve very challenging problems. The team comprises three researchers from UNSW: Professors Jeffrey Braithwaite, Enrico Coiera and Ric Day; as well Professor Johanna Westbrook from the University of Sydney and Professor Bill Runciman from the University of South Australia and the Joanna Briggs Institute.

"Overseas data shows that patients receive recommended care only half of the time," he says. "We will significantly advance this work by investigating how and why this occurs, with a focus on the roles of teamwork, safe medication use and the application of information technology to support improved decision-making."

Professor Braithwaite, who is Director of the Institute for Health Innovation at UNSW, says there is a lack of evidence about what works in improving patient safety.

"Quality and safety of care are now at the very top of our national health agenda, but everyone is struggling to solve this complex systems problem. We simply cannot afford to keep doing more of the same."

Seven UNSW researchers also received Research Fellowships and Professor Basil Donovan from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research received a Practitioner Fellowship.

The funding was announced by the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.

Contact: Susi Hamilton | 9385 1583 | 0422 934 024 | susi.hamilton@unsw.edu.au