Bill has been President of the Australian Patient Safety Foundation since its inception in 1988, when, together with some colleagues, he conceptualised and implemented the Advanced Incident Management System (AIMS) in the form of a nation-wide paper-based anaesthesia incident monitoring project.

Since then he has provided leadership and made fundamental contributions to patient safety and quality research both in Australia and internationally. Bill was concurrently the Foundation Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the University of Adelaide and Head of Department at the Royal Adelaide Hospital from 1988 to 2007.He was a member of the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care and of the Australian Health Information Council.

In 2007, Bill was appointed as a Professorial Research Fellow in Patient Safety at the Joanna Briggs Institute of University of Adelaide and Royal Adelaide Hospital. He also held appointments as an Adjunct Professor, Human Factors in Healthcare, at the University of South Australia and was a Visiting Professor in Change Management at the Centre for Clinical Governance Research in Health, University of New South Wales. Currently he is Professor of Patient Safety at the Centre for Population Health Research at the University of South Australia and Visiting Professor at Macquarie University.

Bill was an author of the landmark Quality in Australian Health Care Study, which was declared the most cited paper in the 100 year history of the Medical Journal of Australia. Bill has been involved in the publication of over 250 scientific papers and chapters and has given over 600 lectures by invitation. In 2007, he published the patient safety textbook: Runciman B, Merry A, Walton M, 'Safety and Ethics in Healthcare: a Guide to Getting It Right', Ashgate, Aldershot, 2007.

In 2007, Bill was awarded the Pugh Award of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the science of anaesthesia, intensive care or related disciplines. In 2008, he was awarded the Sidney Sax Medal of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association for outstanding contribution in the field of health services policy, organisation, delivery and research.  In 2014 he was awarded the Robert Orton Medal – the highest honour of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, in recognition of outstanding achievements in anaesthesia, significant contributions in developing and promoting patient safety and more broadly the cause of healthcare both nationally and internationally.