Sussex Police are funding the use of GPS technology to monitor people with dementia when they go missing. The Mindme device takes the form of a small GPS locator, which is linked to a dedicated internet site, accessible by family and carers.

Speaking of the way the device is being used by Sussex Police, Sgt Suzie Mitchell said: "We regularly have to search for missing people with dementia. It is heart-breaking to see the torment that their families are put through, and to see the impact it has on the person with dementia when they are found.

“I know first-hand how hard it can be because one of my family members had dementia. I also know what a difference this technology will make to those with dementia and their families. We are really excited about our involvement in this project and the difference this could make to local people."

'Form of tagging'
However, the National Pensioners Convention has condemned the use of Mindme, suggesting that it represents a form of tagging. NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said: “This action shows how the social care system has completely collapsed. Councils have had a 30 per cent cut in funding and older people are now slipping through the gaps in the system.

“There has been a lot of talk about pensioners having escaped the austerity measures, but the effects on older people are actually often hidden and they are suffering in silence. This is trying to solve a human problem with technology. Rather than tagging people we need better social care out in the community.

“Dementia patients need human interaction not tagging. Using electronic tags on dementia sufferers raises very important issues about the individual’s human rights. They haven’t committed any crime – they’ve just grown old. This is just about saving money rather than treating people with dignity.”

According to Chichester District council, the device – which costs £27.50 a month to fund - has already helped to save a number of lives.