BT has announced plans to ensure its frontline employees, including many engineers and call centre workers, are able to better support customers living with dementia.  

The company is a supporter of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friends Champion Group and this week pledged to integrate the training into the heart of the business.

Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative designed to change the way people think about the condition. It has the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron and aims to have one million people signed up by March 2015.

Some 850,000 people in the UK will have a form of dementia by 2015. In less than ten years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to two million people by 2051.

Dr Paul Litchfield, BT’s chief medical officer, said: “At BT, the customer is at the heart of everything we do. We are committed and passionate about driving through change to ensure all of us at BT are able to positively help and support customers with dementia.

“More than 1,500 of our employees are already Dementia Friends and the feedback we are getting is that it has made a difference to them personally and is helping them really understand the issues facing our customers and their carers affected by dementia.”

BT employees at call centres across the UK and Openreach engineers are leading the charge, completing the simple training to ensure BT helps demolish the myths, develop empathy and learns how to respond to people who have dementia.

Company employees interact with customers in a number of different ways -including face-to-face engineering visits, on the telephone and via email. Understanding the issues and putting plans in place to support people with dementia and their carers can minimise issues arising and help alleviate worries.

BT can currently liaise with third parties e.g. carers for when there is confusion over bills and specialist barring to prevent vulnerable people repeatedly dialling wrong numbers can be introduced when appropriate.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society chief executive, said: “Most people don’t know enough about dementia. Dementia Friends is the perfect opportunity to be able to invite everyone to improve their knowledge. By learning that little bit more about what it might be like to live with dementia, we will be able to help and support people better. We are pleased that BT are supporting the Dementia Friends initiative and helping to change the way that we think, feel and act when it comes to dementia. It demonstrates their ongoing commitment to making their business more dementia-friendly.”