Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Police defend dementia GPS move

Sussex Police says GPS tags to track dementia patients would be 'very cost-effective' and cut anxiety for family members

Police have defended their decision to buy GPS locating devices to trace dementia patients amid calls from some elder care campaigners for their withdrawal.

Sussex Police have bought six battery-powered locators as part of a bid to save money and time spent on searching for missing dementia patients.

The National Pensioners Convention described the introduction of the devices as "barbaric" and suggested sufferers could be stigmatised and made to feel like criminals.

But Sergeant Suzie Mitchell said: "The scheme is only costing Sussex Police a few hundred pounds but, comparing this to police time, resources, potential risk to the missing person, let alone the anxiety and worry for their family, it is, in my opinion, a few hundred pounds well spent."

The Mindme GPS device is monitored by Chichester Careline, run by Chichester District Council, and supports vulnerable people 24 hours a day every day of the year.

It can be attached to house keys or kept round a person's neck and enables people who become lost or disorientated to be located by their family through a website or Chichester Careline.

But Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, described their introduction by police as "barbaric". She said: "I think they should withdraw it straight away. Trying to equate somebody who has committed a criminal act with somebody who is suffering dementia is completely wrong. I doubt whether anyone in the Cabinet would want their parents dealt with in this way if they were suffering from dementia."

Ms Gibson accused the authorities of "trying to get care on the cheap", adding: "It looks at the problem in the wrong way. If you've got people in the community who are so bad that they are wandering off at night and are not safe, they should be properly cared for, they shouldn't be tagged."

Chief Inspector Tanya Jones, the district commander for Chichester, rejected criticism that the devices could lead to dementia sufferers being viewed as criminals.

She said: "This isn't a tagging device that people use when they are released from prison. It's used with the consent of the family and the individuals concerned. It's almost been blown out of proportion that we are trying to tag the 800,000 dementia sufferers in the country. We will only be using these in specific cases."

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