Undergraduate Training | Postgraduate Training | Research | Partners | Social Responsiveness


Interdisciplinary Palliative Care and Medicine has been an independent division since 2021. IPCM ‘s vision is to strengthen academic and clinical palliative care aiming to ensure better access to sustainable, quality and appropriate palliative care for all ages when indicated, for South Africa and beyond. Since 2002 this division has developed a strong footprint in the undergraduate MBChB program. The division offers a post-graduate diploma in Palliative Care /Medicine and an M.Phil program. The division is proud of its research projects and collaboration with a global research unit aiming to strengthen the healthcare system and ensure distinct African palliative care is accessible to patients and families.

The division actively provides clinical care and works alongside the Department of Health to ensure palliative care is integrated into the South African health setting. Members of the division serve on the national and provincial Palliative Care task teams advocating for quality palliative care. The division is also a proud member of the African Palliative Care Association, assisting in developing the African palliative care community.

We hope to ensure that this division will grow alongside the development of international palliative care practices as an integrated but distinct element of care. It is our vision to grow the leaders of palliative care on the African continent in clinical care, research and as advocates in quality palliative care.

The University of Cape Town established a world-renowned palliative care and medicine teaching and research group in 2001. In 2021 this program became a fully-fledged division known as The Division of Interdisciplinary Palliative Care and Medicine. The Interdisciplinary Palliative Care and Medicine (IPCM) unit is placed within the Department of Family Community and Emergency Care.


Undergraduate training 

Undergraduate training is a spiralled program in the MBChB curriculum with 47 hours of dedicated palliative medicine training across the 6 years of the MBChB program. This training starts in from the 3rd  year in the ‘Becoming a Doctor’ course and extends to Health in Context course/programme in the 4th year, Internal Medicine in the 4th year  and in Family Medicine in the 6th year. Training occurs in hospital settings, primary health care setting and hospices. 


Postgraduate Training

  • Post Graduate Diploma in Palliative Care/Medicine:

    The Post Graduate Diploma in Palliative Care/Medicine is a 1-year blended learning program training intermediate level palliative care to qualified health care professionals. The aim of this course is to equip experienced health care workers with the knowledge and skills for the practical management of patients with life limiting/ life threatening illnesses; including advanced cancer, HIV/AIDS and end-stage disease, organ failure, and progressive neurological disorders.

    This course also focusses on practical ethical management of patient care and emphasises communication skills. The topics are explored through interactive workshops and focused readings supported by web-based learning. Students are expected to apply their learning in the context of their own work setting.

    This program accepts 25 students per year and has trained many South African and African clinicians in palliative care. Applications to this program are selected in September.

  • M.Phil in Palliative Care 

    This course is a blended learning program equipping palliative care providers with advanced skills in palliative care, research skills, ethics, and advocacy. Intermediate level palliative care training is a prerequisite for entry on this course.. This degree consists out of 2 courses: research methods and the submission of a mini-dissertation. 

  • Introduction to Palliative care

    This is a 40-hour online course for all healthcare professionals in basic palliative care. It is online and consists out of 10 online modules and online teaching sessions. This is a CPD-accredited course and is administered by the UCT Continuing Education Unit.

  • Palliative Care for Oncology 

    This is a blended courses that is bespoke for oncologist in training. This course is convened by IPCM and Clinical Oncology at UCT. This course also aims to mentor other radiation oncology training sites across Africa to integrate palliative care into their oncology curriculums. This course is being administered by the UCT Continued Education Unit 



The MPhil program has trained and supported research students in palliative care and the research dissertations that have been completed provide the foundation for a growing evidence-base to palliative care in Africa. The IPCM group has also initiated a number of research projects and has attracted funding to undertake these research projects.  

The research aims of the division are founded on the need for investigation into the complexities of the integration of palliative care in low and middle income settings where health systems differ from high income settings and where resources are limited. Currently this group is focussing on the integration of palliative care in the primary care setting. We have 4 dedicated research staff that are involved in an NHIR funded grant called GHAP, in collaboration with the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London.  IPCM has strong international relationships with research partners on the African continent and internationally.  



Futures etc: There is a need to better understand the needs of patients, family members and health care professionals, alongside the details of how best to provide patient care and family support in our South African settings. The interdisciplinary nature of the palliative care team provides a rich resource for exploring and addressing these complex challenges facing the health system. 


Social Responsiveness 

IPCM has a long history and strong relationship with non-governmental organisations who aim to improve access to quality palliative care. The Hospice and Palliative Care Association of South Africa collaborates with IPCM in teaching, policy development and advocacy.  Members of IPCM serve on the board of the Palliative Care Practitioners Association of South Africa(PalPrac). PalPrac has become a community of practice for graduates to promote and advocate for access to quality palliative care. 

Staff have contributed to development of palliative care internationally, nationally and in the Western Cape province. Prof Gwyther was a  founder trustee of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), is a recent chair of WHPCA, previous director of African Palliative Care Association (APCA), PainSA, ehospice, and was previously on the board of the Networking HIV & AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA). Rene Krause serves on the board of APCA. 

Members of IPCM serve on the Palliative Care Action Group, the Western Cape Provincial Palliative Care Task Team and the National Palliative Care Guideline team.