Dementia champion awarded British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list

A leading figure in dementia care and research has been awarded a British Empire Medal at a ceremony hosted by HM Lord Lieutenant of Devon David Fursdon in County Hall, Exeter.

Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership lead for dementia at the University of Plymouth and Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society, received the award for services to those affected by dementia in the Queen's Birthday Honours. 

His commitment to campaigning for people who might not otherwise have a voice has been recognised around the world. When he was invited as a keynote speaker to the Osaka National Dementia Conference earlier this year, the Japanese delegation said he ‘lit the heart of Japan for dementia’ – and his impact has resonated in local, regional and national communities.

Locally, Ian's work has helped Plymouth to become the first dementia friendly community in the UK. He was integral in setting up the Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance (PDAA), of which he is currently Chair, enabling a citywide approach to dementia awareness. 

Supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, South West Peninsula (PenARC), he delivers dementia awareness sessions to healthcare professionals and students, and at organisations including the BBC, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Argyle Football Club and HM Naval Base Devonport. 

Ian is the driving force behind seven Plymouth Dementia Conferences, attracting national and international speakers.

Ian is part of the core team investigating how to introduce dementia support workers into GP surgeries

The ultimate aim of the £2.7m project is to improve the quality of life for dementia patients and their carers.

Read more about the study

(Pictured are Professor Richard Byng, GP and Professor in Primary Care Research at the University of Plymouth; Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia at the University of Plymouth; Dorothy Tudor, who cares for partner with dementia and is helping to inform the research; and Dr Val Mann Associate Professor in Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Plymouth.)

Nationally, he is a member of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Communities Challenge Group (2013 to date) and chairs the South West and South of England group. Projects in this area include training with the Dartmoor Rescue Team, as well as work with the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs and the Farming Community Network. 

In his role as Chair of the Prime Minister’s Rural Dementia Group (2015 to date) he has worked closely with the gypsy and travellers’ community to raise awareness and understanding of dementia and to identify what socially sensitive dementia care means for them.

Internationally, as Chair of the Dementia Air Transport Group (2016–2020), he has worked with the Civil Aviation Authority, the aviation industry and people with dementia to introduce new CAA guidelines (2016) currently being implemented by all UK airports and airlines to assist passengers with hidden disabilities. 

His work also includes the Academic Dementia Global Group, which sees dementia teams from across the world meet up via video link to share ideas, challenges and best practice to improve the provision of dementia care.

Read Ian's thoughts on the progress of UK airports in helping people with hidden disabilities.

Ian, whose role within Alzheimer’s Society sees him work with people to become Dementia Friends, said: 

“I’m blown away by the honour, and it’s a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in putting Plymouth – as a University and city – at the forefront of dementia care. Back in 2012 I started working with teams in the South Hams to set up the initiative dementia friendly parishes around the Yealm, and we knew we were on to something special. From there, a small group of us have championed dementia support as far afield as Japan and China. 

"From the conversations I’ve had with local people to the national guidelines we’ve helped to implement, I know the work has had a huge impact. 

"I always like to quote anthropologist Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has’. It was fantastic to accept the honour on behalf of everyone who has helped make such a vital difference.”

Professor Judith Petts, CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Plymouth, said:

“The University of Plymouth is internationally renowned as a leader in dementia research and care, and Ian has spearheaded this in the last decade. His work has empowered people who might not have otherwise had a voice, while ensuring our research reaches people affected by the condition. We are all incredibly proud.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

“Ian thoroughly deserves this recognition for his years of hard work and dedication as an Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador. Ian has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people with dementia both across the UK and globally by actively working to transform communities, so they are more supportive and accessible for people affected by dementia."

“Ian dedicates so much of his time travelling from countryside to coast to volunteer for Alzheimer’s Society, and to date, has inspired around 2,000 people to become Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends, tackling stigma by changing the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society wouldn’t be at the forefront of the biggest social movement on dementia without people like Ian. His support continues to be pivotal to making sure the 850,000 people living with it don’t have to face a future alone and without adequate support.

He continues to go above and beyond the call of duty. For over 20 years he has been bringing to Alzheimer’s Society his social care and academic experience to ensure the needs and rights of people with dementia are not forgotten.”

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends is building on the work of the biggest ever social action movement in dementia. Now 2.9 million members strong, the initiative aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition, tackling the lack of understanding that is resulting in such high rates of loneliness and social exclusion. There are also over 400 Dementia Friendly Communities initiatives, which are inspiring businesses, individuals and groups to change the way they act and support people affected by dementia.

Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia, said:

While we are proud of what we have achieved so far, we are all aware that there is more to do – support from the highest levels and the continued efforts of innovators in the lab, in clinic and in society will help us to tackle this pernicious disease

Read more about Ian Sherriff