Dementia patient search service is axed after not finding enough missing people

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

A PIONEERING scheme to locate missing dementia patients has been forced to close after it found only one lost OAP in 18 months.

The Neighbourhood Return scheme launched in 2012 with £191,000 of Lottery cash for Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Waltham Forest.

Some 7,000 volunteers were signed up to search for 370 registered dementia sufferers if they wandered from their homes.

But there were just nine call-outs across the three areas and one Oxfordshire OAP found.

Kate Daisley, operations director for The Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network, which is steering the scheme, said it was “a real shame”.

Lottery cash ran out in October 2013 and she said: “At the time when we applied for a further £1m Lottery grant to continue with the scheme, we had not lost anyone.

“So this did not give the funders confidence in the money we were applying for.”

The scheme – initially funded by the Silver Dreams Big Lottery Fund – had the support of Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council.

It was devised by Dr Rupert McShane, a consultant old age psychiatrist with the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Wallingford’s Roger Stammers, 64, of Shillingford Road, whose wife Isobel began to wander off after the onset of Alzheimer’s in 2004, also helped set up the scheme.

Carers registered patients’ details, location, appearance and a photo and volunteers within a mile of their last location were texted details of missing OAPs.

She said: “The pilot was ground breaking with over 48 per cent of the volunteers never volunteering before and over 96 per cent of the carers saying that the pilot gave them reassurance.

“All volunteers have been sent an email explaining the situation to them. And the people with dementia and their carers will have an email, followed up by a letter, signposting them to organisations including the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK.”

The scheme would also work with the Association of Chief Police Officers to develop volunteering in relation to missing people at a national level, she said.

  • For information visit ourwatch.co.uk

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