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An NHS Career in Palliative Care

  • February 24, 2021

This Blog article aims to provide insight into what working within Palliative Care in the UK is like.

As an international recruitment agency, BDI Resourcing recommend that aspiring Palliative Care Physicians, wanting to work within the NHS, take the MRCP route to their GMC Registration.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative Care as a specialty is centralised around the care of dying patients and those close to them. Doctors in palliative medicine do also provide supportive care at earlier stages in an illness, alongside active treatments, symptom-control and interventions.

The emphasis of the speciality has always been on holistic care of the patients. Patients may be referred with any life-limiting condition, be that a form of cancer or non-cancer.

A common misconception that must be addressed is that Palliative Care within the NHS is just about the last days or weeks of a patient’s life. This is not the case. Palliative care can start from diagnosis if the patient has complex problems (pain control, difficult symptoms, psychological).

Where will I be working as a Palliative Care Physician?

Due to the nature of palliative care, Consultants working within this specialty will often be expected to work across a variety of sites including hospices, community care homes and hospital sites. You may also be included in a Home Visit rota, dependant on the individual Trust.

Of course, you may choose to work in a Palliative Care position that is exclusively based in a Hospital, working with a large multi-disciplinary palliative care team across all wards, departments and clinics. In this case, you would likely be expected to see patients in both medical assessment units and in oncology wards, managing malignant diseases.

If you are working at a more Junior level within the NHS in Palliative Care, you would most likely be rotated across all possible sites, in order to gain experience and knowledge.

Finally, it is important to note that in any setting, the role of a Palliative Care physician will include the provision of palliative care advice to other professionals and sometimes the family of patients, often by telephone.

Will I be working closely with other healthcare colleagues or groups?

Whether you’re working across multiple sites, within the community, in a cancer centre or in an Acute Hospital, you will be working very closely oncology, surgical oncology, pain and anaesthetics departments.

Additionally, you will have a very strong relationship with Geriatrics, General Medicine and other disciplines – because Palliative care does cross all specialties.

Working in large multidisciplinary teams is important in this specialty – clinical nurse specialists in palliative care, physiotherapists, OT, dietetics, SALT, chaplaincy etc.

What are the on-calls and working hours like?

Working hours for a Palliative Care physician within the NHS are usually quite flexible. Some posts within the NHS are 8.30am to 5pm but can be longer if there is a need to communicate with family members who can only visit patients at the end of the working day.

On-call requirements will vary – some placements may have no on call, while others may require specialists to be on call around 20 per cent of the time. Over 65% of NHS Palliative Medicine Consultants say they are routinely on-call at weekends. This may entail hands on clinical responsibilities for inpatients in a hospice, or as part of a shared rota to provide advice and support to other teams in hospital and community settings.

Generally, the specialty lends itself to a good work-life balance.


Health Careers. 2021. Working life (palliative medicine). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021]. 2021. Palliative Care | Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

RCP London. 2021. Specialty career profile: palliative medicine. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].


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