HEALTH regulators will not scrutinise the controversial decision to fluoridate Hampshire water supplies.
The health service ombudsman says it won’t examine concerns over South Central Strategic Health Authority’s (SHA) public consultation on the scheme because of a potential legal challenge going through the courts.
But they left the door open to carrying out an investigation if the judicial review fails to answer campaigners’ complaints.
New Forest East MP Julian Lewis and Totton county councillor David Harrison jointly asked the regulator to examine the way the SHA carried out last year’s consultation, before giving the scheme the go-ahead in February.
They claimed the authority had been “hopelessly biased” in its advice to residents on the arguments surrounding the plans to add fluoride to the tap water delivered to nearly 200,000 homes.
The politicians are also unhappy because they believe health bosses ignored public opinion by approving fluoridation for parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
The Daily Echo has backed campaigners’ calls for a referendum on the scheme, giving residents the final say on the plans.
Dr Lewis said the ombudsman’s decision is disappointing, but not a major setback.
“Of the two methods of tackling this problem, the judicial review is undoubtedly more important,” he said. “It would be valuable if the ombudsman eventually condemns the flawed and biased consultation staged by the SHA.
“However, the intervention of the court, if successful, would be a far bigger setback to the pro-fluoride fanatics.”
More than 10,000 people responded to the 14-week consultation, with 72 per cent of those from the affected area saying they were opposed to the plans.
In a separate phone poll of 2,000 residents, 38 per cent were against fluoridation compared to 32 per cent who said they supported it.
The SHA has always insisted it met or exceeded all its legal obligations in carrying out the consultation, and they took people’s views on board before approving the plans.
Guidance said bosses also had to consider scientific evidence before agreeing or rejecting a scheme.
The ombudsman said that, although the issue is one it might normally investigate, it would be inappropriate to do so until the conclusion of any court proceedings.
A high court judge is currently considering whether there is a case to answer against the SHA.
But the ombudsman added that it would assess a further complaint if the judicial review leaves any unanswered questions.
Councillor Harrison said: “It must be increasingly obvious to the SHA that it cannot proceed without public consent. Even if the legal challenge fails, it will have to overcome a ruling by the ombudsman.”