The Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge Team – Air Travel


On Monday 30 November 2015, I got up early to be on the 06.55 train from Plymouth to London in order to be able to meet the group in the House of Commons for the 11am meeting.


We were, as usual, ushered through security, which has airport style security, with baggage scanners etc.  We were asked if we had any sharp objects and one of the team had an epi pen, so had to show that separately, which was scanned and returned to them.


We then walked round to the Great Hall, which is an enormous and very impressive hall.  We were all ushered into a meeting room just off the main hall and the meeting commenced.  We were kindly hosted by Oliver Colville, however he was meeting with a foreign delegation, so did not arrive until much later.


The group is very positive about the work and trying really hard to make things better for people with dementia.  The Civil Aviation Authority has written to all airports asking them about what they are currently doing for people with hidden disabilities.  Their role will be to monitor and manage the minimum standards, but the aim of the group is far more than minimum standards, it is aiming at achieving a high standard of care and support to people with disabilities, including dementia.


We went through are introductions, so that everyone knew who everyone else was.  We had academics in sound and clinical research, 2 student paramedics, a carer, an OT lecturer, a delegation from Gatwick airport and a representative from the Civil Aviation Authority.  So overall a broad spread of skills.


We all talked about our own roles on the team and then Robert Goodwill, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport arrived, he stayed and talked to the group about the work.  He was interested in the work and very positive, he should be, the work that the group is doing is amazing.  Before this initiative, care and support was patchy, sometimes it was outstanding and sometimes not at all.  The first part is to recognise that there is an issue, find out more about it and then look to see if something can be done to improve the situation.


And Gatwick have embraced this as an idea and are very engaged with trying to make things better for people with dementia and other hidden disabilities.  They are awesome!


So the future for people travelling is getting brighter, especially if you are going through Gatwick.  Travel though requires many organisations to work together, it starts with the travel agent and ends at the holiday resort, often across different legal jurisdictions and different cultural attitudes towards disability.  But it has to start somewhere.


With so many different participants in the travel process, no doubt in the future things could go wrong, but if everyone is as positive and engaged in the process of travel as the Prime Ministers Group are, then hopefully things will not just be good, but will be great.  People with hidden disabilities also have a part to play, if no-one knows they need help, they won’t know to help them.  So if you are travelling and you may need some support, ask!  Hopefully you will be helped in a respectful and dignified manner and you can have a positive experience.


If you’re going on holiday – Have a great time J