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Professor Irene J Higginson

Head of Department, Head of Division and Director of Cicely Saunders Institute

Irene HigginsonPhone: 0207 848 5516
Fax: 0207 848 5517
Researcher ID:


Professor Higginson has research interests and publications in the following areas: quality of life and outcome measurements, evaluation of palliative care especially of new services and interventions, epidemiology, clinical audit, effectiveness, psychosocial factors and care, symptom assessment, cachexia/anorexia, and elderly care.


Professor Irene Higginson qualified in medicine from Nottingham University and has worked in wide ranging medical and university positions, including radiotherapy and oncology, in-patient and home hospice care, the Department of Health (England) and various universities. She has been at King's as Professor and Head of Department since October 1996. While at King's from 2002 to 2005 she was Dean of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Medicine. In 2002 she was appointed Scientific Director of Cicely Saunders International, a new charity seeking to develop a centre of research in palliative care to improve care for patients and families.

Before coming to King's she was a Senior Lecturer/Consultant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Director of Research and Development at Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority.

Key Leadership Roles

NIHR Senior Investigator; Led the National Cancer Research Institute Compass Collaborative- on the Executive and Chair for the final two years of the collaborative; Elected Executive member of the Association for Palliative Medicine; Chair of the European Association of Palliative Care Scientific Committee for the 2015 Conference; Scientific Director of Cicely Saunders International; Member of the Commissioned Research Board of NIHR Health Services Development and Research Board; Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences; Previously: Dean of Graduate Studies at King’s College London; Scientific Director of Maruzza Lefebvre Foundation.

Selected Publications
  • Costantini MR, V.; Leo, S. D.; Beccaro, M.; Bono, L.; Pilastri, P.; Miccinesi, G.; Valenti, D.; Peruselli, C.; Bulli, F.; Franceschini, C.; Grubich, S.; Brunelli, C.; Martini, C.; Pellegrini, F.; Higginson, I. J. Liverpool Care Pathway for patients with cancer in hospital: a cluster randomised trial. Lancet. 2014;383(9913):226-37.
  • Higginson IJ; Bausewein, C.; Reilly, C. C.; Gao, W.; Gysels, M.; Dzingina, M. ; McCrone, P.; Booth, S.; Jolley, C. J.; Moxham, J. An integrated palliative and respiratory care service for patients with advanced disease and refractory breathlessness: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 2014;2(12):979-87.
  • Osborne TRR, C.; Schey, S. A.; Siegert, R. J.; Edmonds, P. M.; Higginson, I. J. Improving the assessment of quality of life in the clinical care of myeloma patients: the development and validation of the Myeloma Patient Outcome Scale (MyPOS). BMC Cancer. 2015;15(1):280.
  • Gao W, Ho YK, Verne J, Glickman M, HIGGINSON IJ; GUIDE_Care project. Changing patterns in place of cancer death in England: a population-based study. PLoS Med. 2013;10(3):e1001410. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001410. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PubMed PMID: 23555201; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3608543.
  • Gomes B, Calanzani N, HIGGINSON IJ. Reversal of the British trends in place of death: time series analysis 2004-2010. Palliat Med. 2012 Mar;26(2):102-7. Epub 2012 Jan 18.
  • Gomes, B., HIGGINSON, I.J., Calanzani, N., Cohen, J., Deliens, L., Daveson, B.A., Bechinger-English, D., Bausewein, C., Ferreira, P.L., Toscani, F., Menaca, A., Gysels, M., Ceulemans, L., Simon, S.T., Pasman, H.R., Ablers, G., Hall, S., Murtagh, F.E., Haugen. D.F., Downing, J., Koffman, J., Pettenati, F., Finetti, S., Antunes, B. and Harding, R. On behalf of PRISMA. Preferences for place of death if faced with advanced cancer: a population survey in England, Flanders, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Annals of Oncology. 2012 Aug;23(8):2006-2015. Epub 2012 Feb 16.
  • Gao, W., Gulliford, M., HIGGINSON, I.J. Prescription patterns of analgesics in the last 3 months of life: a retrospective analysis of 10202 lung cancer patients. British Journal of Cancer 2011 May 24;104(11):1704-10. Epub 2011 May 3.
  • Bausewein B, Booth S, Gysels M, Kühnbach R, Haberland B and HIGGINSON IJ. Individual breathlessness trajectories do not match summary trajectories in advanced cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from a longitudinal study. Palliat Med 2010;24(8):777-86.
  • Rayner, L., Price, A., Evans, A., Valsraj, K., HIGGINSON, I.J., Hotopf, M. Antidepressants for depression in physically ill people. Cochrane database of systematic reviews 2010; 3, PP. CD007503
  • Harding R, Selman L, Agupio G, Dinat N, Downing J, Gwyther L, Mashao T, Mmoledi K, Moll T, Sebuyira LM, Panjatovic B, HIGGINSON IJ. Validation of a core outcome measure for palliative care in Africa: the APCA African Palliative Outcome Scale. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2010;8:10
  • HIGGINSON IJ, McCrone P, Hart S, Burman R, Silber E, Edmonds P. Is Short-Term Palliative Care Cost-Effective in Multiple Sclerosis? A Randomized Phase II Trial. Journal of Pain & Symptom Management 2009;38(6):816-826
  • Shipman, C., Gysels, M., White, P., Worth, A., Murray, S.A., Barclay, S., Forrest, S., (...), HIGGINSON, I.J. Improving generalist end of life care: National consultation with practitioners, commissioners, academics, and service user groups.BMJ 2008; 337 (7674), PP. 848-851
  • Bausewein C, Booth S, Gysels M, HIGGINSON IJ. Non-pharmacological interventions for breathlessness in advanced stages of malignant and non-malignant diseases (Review) Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008; Issue 2. CD005623. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005623.pub2

MSc Modules:

  • Research methods and statistics in palliative care
  • Biology and Management of Symptoms in Advanced Disease
  • Service Organisation and Policy in Palliative Care
  • Service Development and Management
  • Applying Epidemiology in Palliative Care
Current PHD Students
  • Thomas Osborne
  • Christina Ramsenthaler
  • Lesley Henson
  • Stephen Kriese
  • Mendwas Dzingina
Selected Grants
  • NIHR HS & DR Project. Evaluation of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of Short-term Integrated Palliative Care Services (SIPC) to OPTimise CARE for people with advanced long-term Neurological conditions (OPTCARE Neuro). Higginson, Gao, Murtagh, Evans, et al. £1,334,960. (2014 – 2017)
  • NIHR. Geographical understanding of variation in place of death: the role of care services and end of life care improvement (GUIDE_Care Service). Gao, Higginson. £302.878. (2015-2017)
  • Cicely Saunders International/Atlantic Philanthropies. Fellowships Consortium. Higginson. £1,448,610. (2014 – 2017)
  • Cicely Saunders International/ Atlantic Philanthropies. International Access Rights and Empowerment Study (IARE II). Higginson, Daveson. £560,040. (2014 – 2017)
  • Cicely Saunders International/ Atlantic Philanthropies. Project GlobalCARE. Higginson. £542,535. (2014 – 2017)
  • NIHR. C-CHANGE: Delivering quality and cost-effective care across the range of complexity for those with advanced conditions in the last year of life. Murtagh, Higginson, Turner-Stokes, Bausewein, McCrone, Gao, Eagar et al. £1,968,973. (2013-2018)
  • Cicely Saunders International/Atlantic Philanthropies. Project BUILDcare. Higginson, McCrone, Normand, Morrison, Meier. £2,443,112 (2011-2015)
  • NIHR - Department of Health. Higginson. NIHR Senior Investigator £60,000 (2012-2016)
Critical Impact

Professor Higginson is responsible for developing the Palliative Care Outcome Scale which is used across the world. She has pioneered the move for Palliative Care to extend beyond Cancer with extensive research into non-cancer conditions. Professor Higginson has also conducted extensive research into areas such as how to improve home care and better meet patients choice at the end of life and how to improve the management of breathlessness.

International Links

Professor Higginson is a regular speaker at international events.

  • Co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the 14th World Congress of EAPC 2015.
  • 20th International Congress on Palliative Care, Montreal, Canada. 9- 12 September 2014.  Workshop Session - Best Practices in Measurement for Service Development and Evaluation. Plenary  Session – What’s new and exciting at The Cicely Saunders Institute. Special Seminar- Latest Developments in the Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS) for Assessment, Quality Improvement and Care Evaluation: European Progress.
  • Brocher Foundation Symposium, Hermance, Switzerland. 15 July 2014. Empirical evidence of the impact of palliative care for patients.
  • 8th World Research Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care, Lleida, Spain. 5-7 June 2014. Session: An academic palliative care research career: Skills, competence, career choices and luck?
  • EAPC RN & PRC pre-congress seminar, Lleida, Spain. 3 June 2014. Methodology for the evaluation and trials of complex interventions in palliative care.
  • VII National Congress of Palliative Care, Carvoeiro, Portugal. 28-29 March 2014. Plenary Session 2 – Research in Palliative Care: Teams interventions assessment, their efficacy and effectiveness.Plenary Session 10 – Home Palliative Care: Research in Home Palliative Care: Challenges and Opportunities.

Keynote lectures for 2013 included the 12th Australian Palliative Care Conference held in Canberra in September. In 2012 Professor Higginson spoke at several conferences around the globe, including the Norwegian National Conference in Palliative Care, Oslo. 19 September 2012; Sardinian Congress: 5 Incontro sardo – Europeo di Terapia del Dolore e Cure Palliative, Italy. 7 September – 8 September 2012; and the 7th World Research Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care, Trondheim. 07 – 09 June 2012.

Overseas appointments and collaborations

  • Visiting Professor, Harold Hatch International Lecturer – International Longevity Centre, New York, USA, April 2004.
  • Visiting Distinguished Scholar and Visiting Professor – Duke Institute of End of Life Care, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. April – May 2001.
  • Visiting Professor Duke University Medical School, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. April – May 2001.
  • Visiting Professor MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Houston, Texas, USA. May – June 2001.
  • Visiting Professor National Institutes of Health Hospital, Washington, USA. June 2001.
  • World Health Organization/European Association for Palliative Care 2002 – present. Chair of international multiprofessional group of experts who provided advice for the production of two public policy guidance booklets – The Solid Facts: Palliative Care and Better Palliative Care for Older People (2002-2004).
  • The institution has become a WHO Collaborating Centre for Palliative care, policy and rehabilitation. 2016.
  • USA – Health Resources Services Agency/Columbia University Working Group – Evaluation of Demonstration Projects. 2000-2005
  • ITALY – Italian Co-operative Research Group on Palliative Medicine. Multi-centre classification and staging of terminal cancer patients. Scientific committee. 1995–2000.
  • FRANCE – Ministry of Health in France. Evaluation of palliative care, and the use of appropriate measures. Working Group. 1994-5.
  • CANADA – National Institute of Canada. Priorities for research in advanced cancer. 1993.

Current links

  • EU – Grant proposal with Stein Kaasa’s group in the Netherlands.
  • Italy – Massimo Costantini. IH has visited his unit and has written papers, book chapters with him.  

International meetings

  • Palliative Care for Older People. Our Lady’s Hospice, Dublin. 20-21 April 2006. Better palliative care for older people: WHO perspective to national issues.
  • 16th International Congress on Care of the Terminally Ill. Palais des Congrès, Montreal, Canada. 26-29 September 2006. Extending palliative care beyond cancer: past, present and future.
  • 10th Annual Interdisciplinary Approach to Symptom Control, Palliative and Hospice Care Conference, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, USA. 7-8 October 2006. Keynote address. Receive John Mendelsohn Award.
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