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Photo of Dr John Wakefield, Director-General
Dr John Wakefield

Dr John Wakefield PSM, Director-General, Queensland Health

Qualifications - MB CHB FRACGP FACRRM FRACMA MPH (research)

John trained as a doctor in the United Kingdom before emigrating to Australia in 1989. After a decade working in Queensland as a rural doctor and as Director of a regional emergency department, John moved to the Princess Alexandra Hospital as the Executive Director of Medical Services for the surgical division. During this time, John led the establishment of a contemporary patient safety system across the hospital, and was actively involved in national reforms in patient safety and quality.

In early 2004, John undertook an international Fellowship with Dr Jim Bagian and the team at the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS). On his return to Queensland in late 2004, John was successful in his bid to establish the Queensland Health Patient Safety Centre, and was the inaugural Executive Director. The focus of the Centre was to provide system-wide leadership to address the internationally recognised issue of hospital-related patient harm.

Shortly after establishing the Patient Safety Centre, in early 2005, news broke of Dr Jayant Patel and the subsequent Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry thrust patient safety into the spotlight in Queensland. In the years to 2012, John and his team implemented system-wide reform in patient safety in Queensland. Achievements included training and deploying patient safety officers in every health service, introducing a legislative framework for safety investigations known as Root Cause Analysis (RCA), and reduction of hospital acquired patient harm in areas such as medications, falls, pressure injuries and infections. In addition, the introduction of Ryan’s Rule for patient/family initiated emergency response calls in every hospital across Queensland, was a first for Australia. John has been active in both teaching and research, especially in the areas of empathic communication skills and Open Disclosure, human factors engineering and design, and how to achieve safety behaviour change. John was recognised with a Public Service Medal for achievements in patient safety.

After three years as medical executive responsible for merging two Brisbane Children’s Hospitals and moving into the newly built Queensland Children’s Hospital, John returned to the Department as Deputy Director-General for Clinical Excellence Queensland and continued a leadership role in the quality improvement journey for Queensland Health. Central to this was a clinician leadership development program, which graduates around 1000 clinicians each year. The centrepiece is an Improvement Fellowship aimed at developing tomorrows’ improvement leaders.

Taking on the role of Director-General of Queensland Health in August 2019, John has led the system at a time of great challenge through the COVID-19 pandemic. With over three decades experience in health service delivery and improvement, John and his team remain focussed on navigating a safe pathway out of the pandemic, working in partnership across government, with clinicians and patients to continually improve our healthcare system, and drive equity of outcomes for all Queenslanders.

Last updated: 31 August 2021