Published on 5 March 2019

Travelling with diabetes to be made easier with new Medical Device Awareness Card.  

A new Medical Device Awareness Card is available now to ease the stress that some people with diabetes may have experienced when travelling.

It has been reported that people with diabetes using insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitoring devices have had some traumatic experiences when dealing with airport security, for example, where staff have not been educated on what their life-saving equipment is used for.

However, the new Medical Device Awareness Card should enable people with diabetes using medical devices who are travelling to avoid any potentially embarrassing or difficult encounters with security staff.

Due to potential damage, insulin pump and CGM manufacturers advise that the medical devices should not be exposed to x-ray screening and full-body airport scanners. Regulations allow passengers with these medical devices to ask for an alternative security screening process. Statements from the manufacturers of Medtronic, Roche and Freestyle Libre devices can be read here.

Rachel Humphrey, Head of Campaign to launch the Medical Device Awareness Card (via an online petition), said: “Despite the protocols in place, there have been many negative experiences at airport security, including our own harrowing experience when my family were held in an airport police room for over 2 hours and denied access to an aircraft due to my son’s insulin pump, resulting in this global campaign and now the issue of the Medical Device Awareness Card. The card provides information for both the Security Officer and the passenger.

“We also recommend that passengers use the service that many UK airports offer of a discreet identifier (usually a ‘sunflower’ lanyard), for those who have a hidden or not so obvious medical condition or disability. Please see the Special Assistance counters at the airport.

“If you have a poor experience at airport security, please report it so we can act by emailing me on with the following information; the airport name, date, approximate time, flight number and a description of what happened.”

CGM on a person's arm.

Medical Device Awareness Card – information for Security Officer
  • Passengers with a medical device such as an insulin pump or Continuous Glucose Monitoring system (CGMs) should not be screened by a security scanner; if they opt out of this they must be offered an alternative screening method.
  • Passengers must never be asked to remove a medical device from their body for screening.
  • Medical devices (including spare devices) should not go through x-ray machines. Alternative screening processes can be undertaken such as hand search, supported by ETD (explosive trace detection equipment).
Medical Device Awareness Card – information for Passenger 
  • Don’t forget to bring your medical evidence (e.g. letter from a medical practitioner) to confirm your medical device such as an insulin pump or Continuous Glucose Monitoring system (CGMs). Have this ready to show the Security Officer, along with this card.
  • Make the airport Security Officer aware of the device, and exactly what it is and where it is located.
  • If you are carrying a spare medical device, remove it from your cabin bag before the x-ray and let the Security Officer know.
  • And do contact the airport if you have any concerns or queries before you travel: note that screening equipment and processes may differ from airport to airport.
  • Please check with your return airport (if outside the UK) on their arrangements for screening medical devices.

The Medical Device Awareness Card is sponsored by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Airport Operators Association (AOA), which covers both insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems.

Click to download the CAA/AOA Medical Device Awareness Card

A person using a insulin pump.

Insulin pump users welcome new Medical Device Awareness Card

Preparing to board her flight for a trip to celebrate her 50th birthday the last thing Hayley Hakansson was expecting was to be hauled off to be searched by airport security at the departure gates.

However, due to her using an insulin pump to treat type 1 diabetes airport security staff would not let her pass through the security scanner without removing the device.

Hayley was taken to one side without all of her baggage and belongings, with her husband left unaware of what was happening.

Hayley said: “I refused to take off my insulin pump and turn it off – as it is a working piece of equipment, like a pancreas. I was taken to one side and searched. It is education that the airport staff needed.

“I had to leave all of my baggage and my purse on the conveyor belt – everything was there. My husband was left panicking, as he had not been told what was happening. On my return we collected our gear and went to the departures lounge. I do not drink, but I had a large glass of whitewine just to stop me shaking after the ordeal.”

The couple were at Manchester Airport preparing to fly to Barbados for a cruise ship holiday, two days before Hayley’s 50th birthday on 10th March 2017.

In addition to her insulin pump, Hayley had packed lots of additional medical supplies for her trip – including insulin pump sensors, blood testing equipment, needles and lancets.

Hayley added: “On arrival to our destination I found that my new box of lancets for the trip was not there. Luckily I have always carried a week supply in a little travel pack, just in case, that has been all around the world with me. I had to use the same lancets for several days. But this could have been a much worse situation if my insulin had gone missing.”

Since Hayley’s traumatic experience help is now available for people with diabetes using medical devices to manage the condition, with the launch of a new Medical Device Awareness Card – following an online petition by Rachel Humphrey to raise awareness to airport staff.

Hayley, who is a volunteer for Hartlepool Diabetes Group, said: “It’s absolutely amazing what Rachel Humphrey has done for people with her campaign.

“With this new card, when you check in they should give you a lanyard to wear and use a different security scanner, when you show your Medical Device Awareness Card.

“On boarding the plane you should also get called up first, with your partner, along with any other passengers with a health condition

“I have been through Manchester Airport since in a different terminal and there is a stamp on my passport now, when airport security see a passport with this stamp they can put you through a different entrance. It was absolutely a totally different experience a year later. They now have had the education.

“People with a health condition or a disability should not have to go through what I experienced. It is not my fault I have type 1 diabetes. Passengers should not be overly exposed in front of everybody that they have a health condition.”

Visit the Hartlepool Diabetes Group website here
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