Academy of Medical Sciences: The Jean Shanks Lecture 2020

15th December 2020

Palliative care for the 21st century 

Speaker: Professor Irene Higginson, Director, Cicely Saunders Institute  and Vice Dean for Research, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King’s College London 


This year’s prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences Jean Shanks Lecture was given online earlier this month by Professor Irene Higginson, Director of the Cicely Saunders Institute. Professor Higginson outlined in her lecture how incredible progress in public health and medical interventions during the 20th century have led to major advances in health and life expectancy.

The lecture is available to watch on You Tube here: https://bit.ly/3acGJqJ

Healthcare must adapt to the changing patterns of need, illnesses and symptoms, by using new technologies, as well as recent and likely future discoveries and advances in palliative care that could improve the lives of those affected by serious and/or progressive illnesses.

The lecture looked at global trends before looking in detail how in the UK 20% of healthcare resources are spent in the last year of life. Over 80% of deaths are from chronic and progressive conditions with complex comorbid needs. By 2040 there will be a 25% increase in annual deaths and there will be a 42% increase in people needing palliative care.

Yet care quality at the end of life is often not optimal. NHS budgets are increasingly constrained. Yet research shows that palliative care improves care and is more cost-effective.

Professor Higginson also highlighted how multi-morbidity is increasing over time, irrespective of age, and is higher in those who are deprived. In these circumstances palliative care is particularly suitable, as it provides skilled management of complex symptoms and person-centred care.

Professor Higginson also spoke about CSI’s Patient and Public Involvement forum, which has proved so useful during the COVID pandemic. She also highlighted the potential of primary care to revolutionise palliative care in the 21st century.

The lecture is available to watch on You Tube here: https://bit.ly/3acGJqJ