GPS tracking tags attached to dementia sufferers by NHS trust

GPS tracking tags attached to dementia sufferers by NHS trust

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:34 AM on 18th March 2009

GPS tracking devices are to be fitted to dementia patients in the first trial of its kind in Britain.

A total of 20 patients from the Thames Valley and Somerset areas are taking part in the trial which enables their movements to be monitored on a map via a secure website.

Dr Rupert McShane, a consultant in old age psychiatry at the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust said the new technology could provide patients with more freedom to go out safely

‘About 30 per cent of people with dementia get lost at some point, and about 25 per cent of them are locked into their houses by worried relatives.

‘With the development of GPS technology, we think people with dementia might have more freedom to go out and they might be safer if they do go out, if it’s possible to know where they are if they get lost,’ he told the BBC.

Sue Fulford-Dobson, whose partner Ian is taking part in the trial, said: ‘He is fascinated by sunsets. So suddenly at eight o’clock at night he will say, ‘There’s a lovely sunset; I think I’ll just go and see if I can see it better’. And that’s when he will disappear.

‘I mentioned to our GP this was becoming a problem. We’d had a couple of really bad incidents where we’d had to call the police out and he’d been missing for more than 24 hours, overnight.’

But she said it was difficult to persuade Ian to carry the tracker with him at first.

‘I wouldn’t say he’s happy but provided I put it in his pouch every morning he will leave it there, which is all he has to do," she said.

‘At least it means that if he has vanished, even if I can’t find him, it helps the police to find him.

‘I think if somebody is really, really unhappy about it then you can’t do it – because people do have human rights.’

A carer can also be alerted by a phone call or text if the wearer goes outside a specific area.

In April 2007, the then Science Minister Malcolm Wicks was criticised for suggesting dementia patients could be monitored with the use of GPS devices, but the Alzheimer’s Society gave the technology its backing later that year.

Its chief executive Neil Hunt said the technology "could offer benefits to people with dementia and their carers".

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