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12 May 2022

REF2021: Institute demonstrates world-leading research

Research from The Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation, alongside faculty and allied health colleagues from across King’s College London, has topped UK rankings in the latest Research Excellence Framework results (REF2021) announced today. 

A King's College London flag

The REF is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in higher education institutions. The results from REF 2021 highlight the combined strength and impact of applied health research at King’s and demonstrate that King’s research is world-leading in this area.

The Institute included 16 members of staff (including 5 early career researchers), 3 impact case studies and 57 outputs, alongside submissions from colleagues in Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Life Course Sciences at King’s. Out of the 89 submissions made by UK universities to UOA3, King’s was first for overall research rated 4* (the highest possible mark), first for research outputs with 92.1% of outputs being rated 3* or 4*, first for impact rated 4* with 86.4% of impact case studies rated 4*, and first for Grade Point Average and Power*. King’s UAO3 submission also received 100% for environment, along with 12 other institutions. 

I am very proud of these results. They reflect the strength and interdisciplinary nature of the research that we conduct from Cicely Saunders Institute with our global partners. The impact case studies that we included in the submission speak to the very heart of "cutting-edge research" as a goal within our Institute mission: to build new knowledge and discover new treatments through world-leading ethical and robust clinical, applied and health services research. We look forward to building on this excellent REF2021 result to continue our impact around the world.

Professor Richard Harding, Director Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Palliative Care, Vice Dean (International), Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care.

The 3 impact case studies submitted to REF showed the enormous breadth of the Institute’s research from transforming breathlessness management and specialist rehabilitation services, to addressing the global need for palliative care

King’s breathlessness research underpins recommendations across international, national and local guidelines. The breathlessness case study illustrates ongoing impact through the introduction of King’s findings into clinical guidelines and policy documents to improve equity, access, efficiency and clinical practice in breathlessness support.

The UK-ROC database which was adopted by NHS England and collects data on every specialist rehabilitation admission to evaluate the benefits of rehabilitation services to individuals and society.

The rapid response to COVID was enabled by the integrated clinical academic model of our Institute. We produced timely factsheets for people admitted to hospital, translated into 27 languages and downloaded >13,000 times in English and >1,000 times in other languages by patients, family members and hospitals across the NHS and globally.

The Institute's programme of person-centred outcome measures has a significant international reach and impact. Staff from Makarere/Mulago Palliative Care Unit Uganda said our measures “enabled staff to prioritise and treat the most distressing symptoms and to give the most appropriate interventions”. King’s research on palliative care for people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis was used also by the WHO to make recommendations on access to palliative and end of life care for all patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in their End TB Strategy (2014). The Institute also has an award-winning online Patient & Public involvement Forum (PPI) at the Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation.

As a carer for my mother, I was invited to share my lived experience and become a patient representative to help design and support on research studies and on new health trials which have been clinically proven to improve health and care needs of patients. I learned so much from my involvement and engaged with a broad range of communities in public involvement.

Rashmi Kumar, PPI participant

In this story


Vice Dean (International) and Director and Global Lead, Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation