HEALTH staff have been accused of "disgusting" incompetence after a 68-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer was found alone in the freezing cold 19 miles away from hospital.

The family of Michael Clement, who lives in Holstein Way, Thamesmead, were left "numb" with worry after the pensioner went missing for 23 hours triggering a police helicopter and sniffer-dog search.

The grandfather was eventually found 19 miles away in Sutton when he knocked on a couple’s door in the middle of the night, pleading ‘I’m cold, can I come in?’

Daughter-in-law Michaela Curren claims he was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital at 5.19am on December 7 without a coat, money or his relatives being contacted.

The mother-of-four, who lives in Belvedere, says hourly bulletins were broadcast on the radio while Facebook messages of support flooded in to the family.

She said: "We were numb.

"By the time I had gone to bed I was worried he was going to be dead.

"He is fine now.

"A 19 mile journey and we don’t know anything about it. That is the sad part - he can't remember anything. "He had seen morning, afternoon, back to midnight till early morning."

Mr Clement was first taken to hospital overnight on December 6 after suffering from dehydration. A hospital spokesman says he left the following morning before they could arrange for his travel home.

But Ms Curren, 46, is not accepting the explanation. She said: "He has severe Alzheimer’s.

"This nurse didn’t look for a contact number or anything. They just let him go.

"He doesn’t remember anything, he doesn’t remember walking 19 miles.

"The next time might not be so lucky.

"I think it is just absolutely disgusting."

A spokesman for South London Healthcare Trust, which runs Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said: "We are investigating the circumstances around the discharge of Mr Clement from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last weekend.

"Mr Clement unfortunately left the hospital before arrangements for his travel home had been completed.

"We worked with the family and the police to try and locate Mr Clement."