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Palliative Medicine

Illustration of older people holding health-related items

Academic Lead(s):
Professor Katherine Sleeman
Professor Irene Higginson
Dr Sabrina Bajwah

The Department of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation, based at the Cicely Saunders Institute, undertakes applied research into many of the most important yet neglected problems within health care facing our population, and provides a strong research programme to meet the needs of clinical academics with diverse interests. We conduct world-leading research into the management of symptoms such as severe breathlessness and fatigue, and are at the cutting edge of understanding, developing and evaluating new therapies and models of care for individuals with progressive conditions, including dementia, chronic respiratory diseases, those with multiple long-term conditions, and for diverse groups including children and older people. We have NIHR supported studies into new models of care for older people, the use of routine data to understand and improve care for people approaching death, effectiveness of different models of hospital and community palliative care, interventions for the management of refractory breathlessness, provision of palliative care in care homes, and improving services for those from ethnically diverse groups. We lead the palliative care theme for NIHR ARC South London, and have joint national leadership for palliative and end of life care within the ARCs. We are committed to capacity-building through training the next generation of research leaders, and have a strong track record of supporting clinical-academics to progress their careers, particularly through NIHR Fellowships.

In 2010, the Department moved to the purpose-built Cicely Saunders Institute. This is the world’s first purpose-built institute of Palliative Care, bringing together research, education and clinical care. The Institute is a division within the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative care, and we have strong links with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine. In 2018 we became the 22nd Clinical Academic Group within King’s Health Partners. Our clinical-academic integration is particularly noteworthy. Members of the department work in or are linked to all three hospital Trusts across King’s Health Partners (KHP); many of the clinicians have honorary academic posts and are at the forefront of providing evidence-based services.

The London/KSS Palliative Medicine StR training programme is an excellent and well-evaluated training programme in palliative medicine which is strengthened in particular by involvement of leading NHS hospitals as well as notable hospices such as St Christopher’s and Trinity Hospice. It offers training in urban, suburban and more rural areas across the whole area of London and the South East, with training provided by leading and highly respected clinicians who are at the forefront in developing national and international palliative care services.

The clinical placements within the IAT programme are based within hospitals, hospices or community services that are approved for training as part of the London/KSS Palliative Medicine StR training scheme. Trainees usually undertake clinical and academic blocks, though there is flexibility in this according to geographical placements and individual training requirements. The clinical training will follow the curriculum and pattern of the specialty training rotation, with careful attention to acquiring the necessary clinical competencies within the required timeframe. On call experience will be gained through the clinical placements, as for standard specialty training.

Each Integrated Academic Trainee on the programme is allocated:

  • A dedicated educational supervisor who meets with them regularly and reviews progress on clinical and teaching competencies
  • An academic supervisor who meets with them regularly and reviews progress on research and related competencies

Research training takes place in the Cicely Saunders Institute on the Denmark Hill Campus. The Institute provides an excellent environment for academic-clinical training, with an extensive range of active research projects supported by multi-professional staff with expertise in statistics, epidemiology, trials, quantitative and qualitative methods. Our Institute houses both clinical and academic teams which enables the rapid translation of research into practice and also ensures that research problems are based on the concerns raised by patients and families. There is an established programme of weekly training including methodological skills training, journal clubs, clinical-academic exchange and researchers exchange, as well as regular Knowledge Exchange events. Integrated Academic Trainees are offered modules from our Master's programme in palliative care; this includes core training in research methods, specific to palliative care populations. Trainees also benefit from our thriving Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) group, including an award-winning web-based platform for PPI.

The Cicely Saunders Institute has a strong international reputation for high quality, impactful research. In the 2021 UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) our Unit of Assessment (included all CSI research) was ranked #1 (of 89 submissions) overall, scoring 100% 4* for environment, 86% 4* for impact and 92% 3*/4* for research outputs (56% 4*).

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is central to our departmental values. Our institute was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver award in 2016, renewed in 2022. We are committed to delivering equitable support to nurture the clinical academic leaders of the future, and strive to create an environment where all individuals can thrive. We pride ourselves on inclusivity, where all staff participate in the running and decision-making of the department. Staff consistently report that they are treated equally and feel valued.


About the IAT programme

About the IAT programme

The King's College London NIHR-funded Integrated Academic Training programme allows medical and…