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Professor Irene J Higginson

Executive Dean (Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care)

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.


Prof. Higginson is Professor of Palliative Care and Policy, and the Executive Dean of the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care at King’s College London. She is the Founding Professor of the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London, the world’s first purpose-built Institute of palliative care, integrating research, education, clinical services and support and information.  In 2013 she was awarded the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences, for her contribution to the field. She has several active research programmes, setup and now contributes to the MSc, Diploma and Certificate in Palliative Care, supervises several PhD students and is active in teaching.  Prof. Higginson has published over 700 articles in peer-reviewed journals, plus several books; her research interests and publications are 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 care, symptom assessment, breathlessness, cachexia/anorexia, and care for older people. She plays an active role in the clinical services, including on-call. Prof. Higginson is the Scientific Director for the charity Cicely Saunders International. She is internationally known for extending palliative care beyond cancer, and for pioneering developments  in breathlessness management, outcomes and home care. She is dedicated to ensuring research influences and improves care and practice to benefit those who need care, where ever they are.

Key Leadership Roles

Director - Cicely Saunders Institute

Vice Dean for Research - Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King's College London

Director of Applied Health Research -  King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Director of  Research and Innovation -  King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Scientific Director - Cicely Saunders International

NIHR Senior Investigator (Emiratus);

Dean of Graduate Studies -  Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine

Scientific Director -  Cicely Saunders International;

Director of Research, Education and Quality, - St Christopher's Hopsice

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;

Member of the Commissioned Research Board of NIHR Health Services Development and Research Board;

Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences; 

Scientific Director -  Maruzza Lefebvre Foundation.

Selected Publications
  • HIGGINSON IJ, Wilcock A, Johnson MJ, et al. Randomised, double-blind, multicentre, mixed-methods, dose-escalation feasibility trial of mirtazapine for better treatment of severe breathlessness in advanced lung disease (BETTER-B feasibility). Thorax 2020; 75(2): 176-9
  • Bone AE, Gomes B, Etkind SN, Verne J, Murtagh FE, Evans CJ, Higginson IJ. What is the impact of population ageing on the future provision of end-of-life care? Population-based projections of place of death. Palliative medicine. 2017. doi: 26921631773443510.1177/0269216317734435.
  • Sleeman KE, Perera G, Stewart R, HIGGINSON IJ. Predictors of emergency department attendance by people with dementia in their last year of life: Retrospective cohort study using linked clinical and administrative data. Alzheimers Dementia. 2017 August 8. pii: S1552-5260(17)32520-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2017.06.2267.
  • HIGGINSON IJ, Reilly CC, Bajwah S, Maddocks M, Costantini M, Gao W, and on behalf of GUIDE_Care project. Which patients with advanced respiratory disease die in hospital? A 14-year population-based study of trends and associated factors. BMC Med. 2017 Feb 1;15(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s12916-016-0776-2.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Murtagh FE, Bausewein C, Verne J, Groeneveld EI, Kaloki YE, HIGGINSON IJ. How many people need palliative care? A study developing and comparing methods for population-based estimates. Palliat Med. 2014;28(1):49-58.
  • HIGGINSON IJ, Evans CJ, Grande G, Preston N, Morgan M, McCrone P, Lewis P, Fayers P, Harding R, Hotopf M. Evaluating complex interventions in End of Life Care: the MORECare Statement on good practice generated by a synthesis of transparent expert consultations and systematic reviews. BMC Medicine 2013; 11(1): 111.
  • 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, Gysels M, Hall S, HIGGINSON IJ. Heterogeneity and changes in preferences for dying at home: a systematic review. BMC Palliat Care. 2013 Feb 15;12(1):7.
  • 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
  • Javiera Leniz Martelli
  • Lucy Fettes
Selected Grants
  • Medical Research Council (MRC). Rapid evaluation of the COVID-19 pandemic response in palliative and end of lifecare: national delivery, workforce and symptom management (CovPall). HIGGINSON I, Sleeman K, Maddocks M, Murtagh F, Walsche C, et al. £280,949 (2020-2021)
  • NIHR Applied Research Collaboratives. South London Applied Research Collaborative. Thornicroft, Higginson I, Sandal, Littlejohns et al. £9,000,000 (2019-2024)
  • WHO (World Health Organisation) Evaluation of six WHO palliative care demonstration sites. Harding, R., HIGGINSON, I., Yi, D. H., Gao, W. £143,205.00 (2019)
  •  European Commission - Horizon 2020. BETTER-B: Better Treatments for Breathlessness In Palliative And End Of Life Care. HIGGINSON, I.J., Maddocks, M., Bajwah, S., Jolley, C. £3,129,100 (2019-2023)
  • European Research Council Consolidator Award. C-POS - Children's Palliative care Outcome Scale. Harding, R., Bluebond-Langner, M., HIGGINSON, I., Gao, W., Farsides, B., Murtagh, F.  £1,331,866.00 (2019-2023)
  • National Institute for Health Research. ASSET: health System Strengthening in SSA. Prince, M., Gao, W., Harding, R., HIGGINSON, I., Poston, L., Shennan, A. et al. £6,997,730.00 (2017-2021)
  • 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 inivited and keynote speaker at international events.

  • 33rd Annual Health Service Research Lecture. ‘Future Proofing Health and Social Care: the role for palliative and end-of-life care ’London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London United Kingdom. 6 March 2019

  • Sidney de Haan Lecture. ‘Palliative Care in Dementia’, Canterbury Christ Church University, Folkestone. 9May 2019

  • 7th International WeCare Workshop. ‘Quality of Life in Multiple Myeloma’, Barcelona, Spain. 22 – 23 November 2019.

  • Balfour Mount Visiting Professor presentation. ‘The future for palliative care: new care models and challenges now and in the future’. Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario. 22 November 2018.

  • 8th Amsterdam Symposium on Palliative Care. International Expert for Symposium ‘Advances in the assessment and management of breathlessness in advanced disease: current evidence, future priorities in research, practice and policy’. Amsterdam. 11 October 2018

  • Joint Grant Rounds Presentation. ‘Advances in the Assessment and management of refractory breathlessness in advanced disease’. Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario. 22November 2018

  • French Society of Palliative Care International Palliative Care Experts Symposium. ‘Implementation of Palliative Care Research into Clinical Practice and Evaluation’. Paris, France. 9 October 2018

  • Taiwan Academy of Hospice Palliative Medicine. Keynote lecture: ‘How to improve palliative care: experiences and challenges in global, national and local contexts’; Pre-Conference Workshop: ‘Development and education of professionals in palliative care.’ Taiwan, 23 – 24 June 2018

  • Hong Kong Jockey Club End of Life Community Care Project Conference. Keynote Lecture: ‘Building  human capacity in palliative care: local, national and international experiences’; Pre-conference workshop: ‘Improving research in end of life and palliative care: an interactive workshop using findings from the MORECare Statement & Study’, Hong Kong. 19th – 22nd June 2018.

  • 23rd Congress of the Japanese Society for Palliative Medicine (JSPM). ‘Management of Breathlessness in Chronic Respiratory Illnesses’ and ‘Future-proofing palliative care: evidence of need, trends and challenges in clinical care education and research’ Kobe, Japan. 15-16 June 2018.

  • End of Life Care Engagement Event, hosted by NHS England (London region) End of Life Clinical Network, RM Partners and PallE8 ‘The future need for palliative care: with a London focus’ London, UK. 17th April 2018

  • Palliative and End-of-Life Care National Network Meeting. ‘The future for palliative care: new care models and challenges now and in the future’. Canada (Irene presented remotely) 24th April 2018.

  • European Association of Palliative Care Conference. Plenary Session: ‘Good practices to evaluate complex interventions in end-of-life care’. Vittorio Ventafridda Lecture: ‘Integrating Research, Education and Clinical Care’ Bern, Switzerland.

  • Hospice UK Conference. Plenary Lecture ‘What does the future hold for dying people in the UK? Liverpool UK. 22nd – 24th November 2017.
  • NCRI Cancer Conference. Plenary Lecture ‘Early integration of palliative care’. Liverpool UK. 5th - 8th November 2017.
  • PCRS Respiratory Conference. ‘How do I replicate the BSS in a multi-specialty provider model of care?’ Telford International Centre, UK. 29th September 2017.
  • European Respiratory Society International Congress 2017 (ERS). ‘Management of troublesome symptoms and palliative care of patients with COPD.’ Milan, Italy. 9-13th September 2017.
  • Asia Pacific Hospice Conference 2017 (APHC). Hinohara Lecture (Plenary) ‘Greater than the Sum of its Parts’ and ‘Advances in the Management of Breathlessness Support’ Suntec City, Singapore. 27th- 29th July 2017.
  • International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) 2017 World Congress. ‘Palliative Care in the Mainstream: Stepping up to the Plate the Case for Integrated Geriatric and Palliative Care Strategies’. San Francisco, California. 23rd-27th July 2017.
  • Quality Measures for Serious Illness Care. Fairmont Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada. 9th – 11th May 2017.
  • Serious Illness Communication Measurement Symposium. (1) ‘What communication processes have the greatest impact on the care of patients with serious illness.’ (2) ‘How to measure these processes and their outcomes.’ Seattle, USA. 4th-5th May 2017.
  • Workshop on Older People with Comorbidity and their Future (with Silvia Lefebvre d’Ovidio and Carlo Peruselli). Defining the Essence of Palliative care for Older People: Religions Together’. Vatican City, Italy. 30th March 2017.
  • The European Cancer Congress. ‘Critical Review: Palliative and Supportive Care – Critical Review of Presented Trials and Implication in Practice‘. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 27-30th January 2017.
  • Danish Society of Palliative Medicine - Annual General Meeting. ‘The roles and perspectives of modern palliative care: a health services research point of view. Hindsgavl Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark. 18th-19th January 2017.
  •  Highgate Society Talk. ‘Future Challenges for Palliative Care’. London, UK. 17th January 2017
  • Salzburg Global Seminar Session on end of life care. ‘Health and Health care innovation: “Rethinking Care Toward the End of Life”. Salzburg Austria, 14th-19th December 2016.
  • Palliative Care Quality Indicators and Outcomes Symposium, Delivered by skype and video from London.  New Zealand, 13th November 2016.
  • 2nd Advanced Course on Symptom Control. 3 topics: 1. ‘How can we organize research on a specific topic? How to plan research projects on dyspnea? 2. Symptom Control. Is it really cost effective? 3. KCL and CSI. Research Teams and organization. Description of the services. European Associate for Palliative Care. Madrid, Spain. 11th November 2016.
  • UICC (Union for International Cancer Control). International Consensus Meeting via Teleconference and Video from London on Wed 2 Nov, 2-4pm (London time). Paris, France. 31 Oct – 3 Nov 2016.
  • The Marie Curie ‘Design to Care’ Conference. ‘Designing a toolkit to enable the design of Palliative Care services’. Cambridge, London, UK. 11th – 12th October 2016.
  •  Royal College of Physicians’ Quincentennial Society meeting. “People who changed the world” - Dame Cicely Mary Saunders: Inspiring a worldwide transformation for modern medicine. London, UK. 3rd October 2016. 
  •  European Research Society International Congress 2016. “It is the most frightening thing that I have ever experienced.” London, UK. 3-7th September 2016.
  • International Palliative Care Consensus Workshop. Ottawa, Canada. 17-18th August 2016.
  • The 9th World Research Congress of European Association for Palliative Care. ‘Knowledge Transfer, Adoption and Implementation.’ Dublin, Ireland. 9-11 June 2016.
  • Lecture on ‘New models and transformative research for the new era of palliative care.’ Reggio Emilia Medical Institute, Italy. 18th April 2016.
  • The 11th Palliative Care Congress. The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre Workshop – ‘Latest advances in outcome measurement in palliative care.’ Glasgow, United Kingdom. 9th – 11th March 2016
  • 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

  • Royal College Balfour Mount Visiting Professorship in Palliative Medicine, Ottawa, Canada. February 2017-18
  • 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.  


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