Cicely Saunders International Annual Lecture 2020

19th November 2020

The Cicely Saunders International Annual Lecture is an annual event hosted by the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London. These lectures are a unique opportunity to learn from world-leading clinicians and scientists and are aimed at clinicians, healthcare researchers, health policymakers and palliative care funders.

This year’s lecture was given online by international speakers Professor Irene Higginson, Professor Steven Pantilat and Dr Eve Namisango and reviewed the global role and response of palliative care to COVID-19 in the UK, USA and Africa. The learning and global insights for palliative care from the pandemic have been transformative.  Dr Pantilat highlighted how the use of telemedicine was highly rated by patients, and protected staff, and it also enabled teams in different locations to support teams elsewhere.  For example the team at UCSF in California were able to support a hospital in New York under severe strain from the pandemic. 

Dr Namisango highlighted the achievements and challenges for healthcare professionals in Africa and how MHealth is helping teams to continue to provide care in the midst of the pandemic, and how projects like Project ECHO are supporting healthcare professionals through knowledge exchange platforms.

Professor Higginson said: “In future surges we urgently need better integration of services, recognition of palliative care staff, and better access to medications for symptom control.”  

Around 900 people attended the lecture.  In his closing remarks CS International Chairman, John McGrath paid tribute to the many funders who have supported Cicely Saunders International and the Cicely Saunders Institute.  “2020 has presented us with a unique opportunity to make palliative care more visible, and bring about change.  I urge all our supporters to join us when we launch our Action Plan for Palliative Care in early December.  I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the staff at the Institute and in particular the clinical team – young people in many cases – who in late March stepped into the frontline and took on heavy responsibilities with energy and a can-do spirit.  Thank you. “

The lecture is available to view on YouTube at