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Lewisham pop-up shop asks how to have a 'good death'

Our engagement with patients, the public, stakeholders and other partners is vital to our work. We always provide feedback to those who have engaged with us, and part of this includes sharing how we've responded to questions by including them on our website page You said, we did…and are doing.

Members of the Public Reference Group (PRG) joined local patients, carers and residents with representatives from the PRG, Healthwatch, Lewisham Nexus, Three Cs Support, Carers Lewisham and Metro for engagement activities to help to develop the Lewisham End of Life Transformation Project during the re-procurement of the Community Specialist Palliative Care Service. 

We are keen to share any information that may benefit our local community, and the Departure Lounge installation in Lewisham Shopping Centre is a good example of this.


We need to talk about dying

'The Departure Lounge' is a taboo-busting and free-to-all installation in Lewisham Shopping Centre from Friday 10 May – Friday 7 June. The pop-up shop uses the metaphor of travel, findings from medical science, and personal stories from the end of life to explore what it means to have a 'good death'. The project has been created by the Academy of Medical Sciences and public engagement specialists The Liminal Space to help empower the public to talk more openly about the inevitable last journey in our lives.

Walking past The Departure Lounge, shoppers will see what appear to be travel posters promoting exotic destinations in the windows. On closer inspection, the slogans are actually common phrases we all use to avoid talking about death.

Inside, visitors find themselves in an airport departure lounge where suitcases tell stories of lives well lived and luggage tags reveal how medical science has changed the way we die. An interactive life-size departures board will help visitors answer pertinent questions about death and explore what matters most at the end of life personally, and for their loved ones. At the departure gates visitors will have the opportunity to talk to a diverse range of experts in end of life care and death and dying research.  

Thanks to advances in medical science, we are now living for longer than ever before. However, our aging population has created a demographic challenge where the numbers of UK deaths per year is predicted to rise by an extra 100,000 by 2040. Healthcare costs are also increasing as more people spend more years in ill-health at the end of life, and it's likely that most of us will end up living with one or more health problems as we age. In order to understand how best to care for our aging population as we near death, we must listen to what is most important to people now and in the future.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:
"Although one in three of us thinks about death or dying at least once a week, most people find it hard to talk about. Not just with family and friends, but also with the doctors and healthcare professionals who care for us at the end of life. The Departure Lounge has been created to start conversations about the end of life and how medical and health research might support people to have a 'good death' in the future.

"People might be apprehensive about coming into a space to talk about death, but we have created a positive place to explore how having conversations about death and dying can help us live our entire lives to the fullest. This shouldn't just be a conversation we have when faced with the end of life: it's something we should talk about throughout our lives."

Lewisham, South London, was chosen as the location for the project because it's the birthplace of the modem hospice movement and home to St Christopher's Hospice, the UK's first ever modern hospice. The Academy purposefully brought this project to a neighbourhood outside of London's central museum district to encourage conversations about dying in an everyday environment.


The Departure Lounge will be at Unit 4, Lewisham Shopping Centre, Molesworth Street, London SE13 7HB from Friday 10 May until Friday 7 June, open from Tuesday-Saturday: Midday - 5.30pmSundays: 11.00am-5.00pm / Closed Mondays.
It is free and open to all. #thedeparturelounge

For more information please contact:
Naomi Clarke, Senior Communications Officer, Academy of Medical Sciences
020 3141 3208, 07903 158979 or 07969 082520,