OBJECTIVE: To describe and evaluate the PACT (Patient assessment, Assertive communication, Continuum of care, Teamwork with trust) Project, aimed at improving communication between hospital staff at handover. DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The PACT Project was conducted between April and December 2008 at a medium-sized private hospital in Victoria. Action research was used to implement and monitor the project, with seven nurses acting as a critical reference group. Two communication tools were developed to standardise and facilitate shift-to-shift and nurse-to-doctor communication. Both tools used SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) principles. All nurses attended workshops on assertive communication strategies and focused clinical assessment of the deteriorating patient. Questionnaires were distributed to nurses and doctors at baseline, and post-implementation questionnaires and qualitative data were collected from nurses immediately after the project. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Nurses' opinions of improvement in structure and content of handover; nurses' confidence in their communication skills. RESULTS: At baseline, 85% of nurses believed communication needed improvement. After implementation, 68% of nurses believed handover had improved and 80% felt more confident when communicating with doctors. CONCLUSION: Early evidence supports the use of standardised communication tools for handover, together with specific training in assertive communication and patient assessment. Long-term evaluation of patient outcomes is needed.