The palliative care response to COVID-19

Cicely Saunders Institute building

The COVID-19 pandemic is placing an unprecedented strain on health care services. Although many people survive, an estimated 1 to 4% sadly die from this disease. Some symptoms including breathlessness, agitation, shivering and pain are prevalent and very distressing. Families and friends suffer too. Palliative care is vital to improve quality of life and care during this pandemic.

Our team in the Cicely Saunders Institute have completed and published several rapid COVID-19 related research studies, including a systematic review on the role of palliative care and hospice services in pandemics published the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Building on the findings of this rapid review, we planned and launched a new collaborative study to understand how palliative care and hospice services have adapted practices and staffing and used innovations to respond to COVID-19. We also produced a leaflet to help people living with breathlessness, based on evidence from our earlier research into breathlessness. This leaflet helps people with chronic conditions manage their breathlessness at home during the pandemic.

Breathlessness resource image
Managing breathlessness at home during the COVID-19 outbreak leaflet


We prepared international guidance to help respiratory professionals manage the supportive care needs of those with COVID-19.  The latter includes co-designed information leaflets for patients and their friends and family. A collaborative rapid virtual public consultation with people affected by serious illness is helping us to understand their concerns, challenges and research priorities in relation to palliative care and COVID-19. We captured views within our already developed online forum at the Cicely Saunders Institute ( and by email and telephone.  Over 50 responses have been received so far and are being analysed.

To access these resources, our growing body of research and implementation in our ARC South London Palliative and End of Life Care theme’s COVID-19 work , please visit:

By the palliative and end of life care theme



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