‘Talking about death is still a taboo’: Popular death cafe at Queen’s Hospital to become permanent feature

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 May 2019

Gemma Norburn, from the trust’s Mortuary team and her mum, Anita. They have been attending Queen's Hospital's Death Cafes. Picture: BHRUT

Gemma Norburn, from the trust’s Mortuary team and her mum, Anita. They have been attending Queen's Hospital's Death Cafes. Picture: BHRUT


Queen’s Hospital is planning to make an event aimed at getting people more comfortable talking about death a permanent feature after it proved hugely popular during Dying Matters Week.

There was only standing room available at the Death Cafe in Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way during Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 13 to 19).

Along with good attendance at a similar event in King George Hospital in Goodmwayes, the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is now planning to introduce them on a permanent basis.

Death cafes are an open forum for people to discuss death while enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

They were run by Gemma Norburn, from the trust's Mortuary team, who has been running them for over a year and is delighted they could become a regular occurrence at the trust.

She said: "As a lot of staff joined us and it was really interesting to hear their views on death and dying, particularly as many are from clinical backgrounds.

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"There was a really varied discussion so I'm really excited at the prospect of holding them regularly at work."

Gemma's mum, Anita, has supported her Death Cafes from the beginning, attending nearly every one she's hosted, and the cafe at Queen's Hospital was no different.

"I wasn't surprised at all when Gemma started to work in a mortuary, given she'd done an archaeology degree, I knew she was comfortable with bones," said Anita.

"I find it really interesting to see people open up and I think what she's doing with these Death Cafes is wonderful as too many people can't talk about it."

Karen Phillips, a lead cancer nurse at BHRUT, added: "Talking about death is still a taboo - we're very British about it.

"In all the Death Cafes I've been to, no one has been uncomfortable. Everyone has been happy to share stories and usually there is a lot of humour involved.

"I'm delighted that we're moving to introduce regular Death Cafes at our Trust as our staff benefit hugely too. It's a valuable tool to help start a conversation."

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