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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Feature research project: GPS technologies for Safe Walking project

An update from Dr Ruth Bartlett

The Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies for Safer Walking project is a 28 month participative inquiry project, which started in September 2015 with funding from the Alzheimer’s Society. The project, led by Dr Ruth Bartlett, is interdisciplinary, and involves experts in law and computational engineering, with partners from Hampshire Police and Southern NHS Trust.

Dr Tula Brannelly joined the Faculty earlier this month, as a Senior Research Fellow to run the project. Tula is an expert in the ‘ethics of care’ and has considerable experience of running participative inquiry projects. Tula used to work at the University of Surrey on the research project ‘Researching Interventions that Promote Ethics in social care’ with Professor Ann Gallagher. From 2006 – 2015 Tula was a Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at Massey University in New Zealand, and before that a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. Tula completed her PhD, ‘Citizenship and care for people with dementia’ at Birmingham in 2004. Prior to that Tula worked in mental health nursing roles with older people.

The project involves three phases of work: (1) a series of focus groups with police officers and family members (2) go-along walking interviews with people with dementia and (3) the co-production of practical guidance with key stakeholders, including people with dementia and the police.

We plan to work with businesses in the location technology sector to trial a range of GPS products with individuals living with dementia. We are also interested in the use of ordinary devices (e.g. smartphones and watches with GPS), as well as special GPS devices.

The aim of the project is to influence community-based practice and the ‘dementia-friendly communities’ policy agenda by synthesising and providing fresh evidence about the usage and effectiveness of location technologies. We also hope to provide a valuable opportunity for members of the public to work with researchers to co-produce practical guidance for decision-makers on the use of GPS.

We are currently in the process of setting up the project, in partnership with Hampshire police and an Occupational Therapist based at Southern NHS Trust. We’ll be launching an interactive website and sending out the project’s first biannual e-newsletter in the New Year, so if you’d like to keep up to date with the project please let Tula know and she’ll add you to our mailing list


Dr Tula Brannelly
Dr Tula Brannelly
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