Police have announced plans to fit tracking devices into elderly dementia sufferers to avoid “costly call-outs” to search for patients who go missing.

Sussex Police have purchased 15 of the devices and said that it would prevent the time spent on searching for elderly people who go missing.

They have estimated that one-in-four of more than 300 missing persons inquiries it launched in 2011 involved a dementia patient.

The tracking device can be worn around a patient’s neck, clipped to a belt or attached to a set of house keys. It features a button which enables the wearer to speak directly to an operator in a 24-hour call centre.

Family and friends can also log in to the system and monitor the whereabouts of their elderly relatives.

However, the head of adult services at East Sussex council said that the scheme needs further investigation. He said that the devices could stigmatise the elderly and make them feel like criminals.

One of the main problems with the scheme which critics have condemned is the fact that it appears not done with the consent of the elderly person in question.

It has been branded as “inhumane” by elderly campaigners. Over 100 local authorities are already using similar GPS devices to monitor people suffering from dementia in what is an increasingly profitable business.

Sussex Police is the first force in the country to adopt the scheme. The trial will cost the force £400 a month, but if successful will be rolled out across the county, which has a large elderly population.

The GPS device is called “MindMe” will be rolled out across the county, which has a large elderly population if proved successful.

Bill Bentley, an East Sussex Conservative councillor who is responsible for adult social care in the region said that more information is needed before the scheme is implemented.

He said: “What we have to do is think about individual people’s rights.
“They may have dementia but would they actually wish to be tracked in this way?

“It’s about getting the balance between a person’s wishes and imposing a technological solution on them that they may or may not wish to have happened.”

But Neil Duncan-Jordan, the national officer of the National Pensioners’ Convention was more critical of the scheme and said that it puts elderly sufferers on a par with criminals.

He told the Telegraph: “It smacks of criminality. These people have done nothing wrong. It puts them on a par with common offenders or people with Asbos. We should not be looking at dementia sufferers in that way.

“There has got to be a more humane way of coping with somebody’s mental state, and, if it has got to that extreme level, it does beg the question: are there not proper facilities to care for people when they have severe cases of dementia?”

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