HUNDREDS of people in Blackbird Leys coping with dementia could be suffering alone needlessly, a charity director has claimed.

Andy Buckland runs the Daybreak Rosewood Club, a group that provides care for people with dementia, but says it has seen a drop in members.

He said that mental health trust Oxford Health and Oxfordshire County Council’s social services used to regularly refer people to the club but this had dried up.

Mr Buckland said: “We get very few referrals these days. It means there are people out there who, in previous years we would have helped, that now we don’t know about.”

The club, which is at the Clockhouse in Long Ground, has seen numbers drop from about 90 a week to 55.

Mr Buckland said: “Maybe the mental health trust thinks Oxfordshire’s four dementia advisers will make all of the referrals.

“That’s a lot of work for them, when it should be coming from elsewhere as well.

“We have had no feedback saying we are not providing appropriate care.”

Mr Buckland said that the club could be beneficial to more patients.

He added: “A few years ago we had huge waiting lists, and now there are people who are alone who we could be helping.”

The club estimates that there are up to 4,000 people in Oxford who have dementia, and blamed reorganisation within the NHS for the drop in referrals.

One of those is Margaret Protherough, who has severe dementia. Her husband, Robert, said that the couple would not be able to cope without the club.

He said: “It’s not just helpful to Margaret, it’s helpful to me. It gives me a chance to do the jobs that otherwise I find very hard to do; shopping, and everything else about the house.”

Mrs Protherough’s dementia is so severe that the couple have a live-in carer for her. They live in Headington and rely on the club’s minibus to bring Mrs Protherough to and from the club.

Mr Protherough, 88, said: “I don’t know how we would manage if we had to keep Margaret in the house all day. Her short-term memory has gone, and she constantly asks questions.”

The Daybreak Club gives Mrs Protherough, 85, a chance to be treated with more independence than is possible at her home.

Mr Protherough explained: “It’s a chance for her to meet other people and have something that is hers which we don’t know about. I’ve gone with her once or twice and seen Margaret happily engaging in singing or dancing, all of which we can’t provide at home.”

Mr Protherough added: “It makes me upset and angry to think that people could be going, but don’t know it exists.”

Club assistant manager Magadalena Pacholewicz said: “I organise the entire day for the members. We need to keep them entertained and stimulated, both mentally and physically.

“We use art, music, board games, we go on trips to places, go for walks, and so on.”

The 33-year-old added: “This sort of activity is really important to the members, and to their community of carers. As many people as possible need to know we’re here.” Daybreak had also previously been referred to patients by social services.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “We can and do offer information produced by groups to people, however it is down to individuals and/or their carers to choose which service they access.

“Council staff would be happy to discuss with dementia groups about how they could raise their own profile to help attract more people.”

Oxford Health refused to comment.