Prioritising palliative care – The Cicely Saunders Institute

King’s is pioneering work in the field of palliative care, an often overlooked and underfunded area of healthcare. In doing so, we are preventing and relieving the suffering of millions of patients and their families worldwide. The Cicely Saunders Institute is a fantastic example of how the World questions | King’s answers campaign has spearheaded innovation in order to change lives for the better – the building was funded almost entirely by philanthropic support.

Dame Cicely Saunders, pioneer of the modern hospice movement, inspired the Institute to provide a bridge between information, education, care and science. The Institute, based at King’s Denmark Hill Campus, is the world’s first purpose-built centre for palliative care practice and research.

The Cicely Saunders Institute is special because it brings healthcare professionals, academics and community organisations together under one roof. A talented multi-professional team works across King’s Health Partners to help relieve people of their physical and psychological symptoms. In fact, the Institute’s Director, Professor Irene Higginson, developed the revolutionary Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS), now used across the world. Through patient and staff questionnaires, the POS identifies physical and psychological symptoms, practical and emotional concerns, spiritual considerations and psychosocial needs – helping improve people’s lives whatever their medical prognosis.

The Cicely Saunders Institute also provides world-class teaching for the palliative care leaders of tomorrow – doctors, nurses and other health professionals, undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, and international visitors.

At the forefront of academic research
King’s research identified a range of important interventions, including exercise and breathing techniques, effective drugs and the use of handheld fans. It inspired the Cicely Saunders Institute’s Breathlessness Support Service, which is having a significant impact on patients’ quality and length of life. Multi-national studies helped to identify good practice, improve access and empower patients to make informed choices. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of King’s Alumni and the wider King’s community. You truly are helping to make the world a better place – and for that we want to say thank you.