PLANS to add fluoride to Bolton’s water supply have been shelved by health bosses.
NHS North West, the regional health body, drew up plans for a £200 million fluoridation scheme in 2008 and 2009.
A region-wide consultation was due to take place which would have given people the chance to decide whether that scheme should go ahead.
But NHS North West is to be abolished — and the fluoridation consultation plans will go with it, the body has revealed.
Bolton North East MP David Crausby, who has long campaigned against fluoridation in Bolton, last night welcomed the news.
He said: “I have always opposed the idea of mass medication without consent. I am very pleased that it now appears that no fluoridation will take place in the foreseeable future.
“However, I will continue to campaign against this idea should it reappear on the agenda.”
The aim of putting fluoride in the water supply is to strengthen people’s teeth and tackle the area’s poor dental health.
It would have cost £200 million over six years, NHS North West said, and the annual running costs of the scheme would have been a further £5.78 million.
NHS North West had delayed its public consultation while it awaited the outcome of a judicial review of a mass-fluoridation scheme in Southampton and parts of Hampshire.
In February, judges upheld the decision and the end of the legal process was confirmed in July. But the decision came too late for NHS North West, which has now shelved its plans.
An NHS North West report says: “It is unlikely that the current timescales for NHS service reorganization will permit NHS North West to complete a consultation exercise.
“In transition it is unlikely that NHS North West would have the workforce capacity and capability to support a high quality, authoritative consultation exercise.”
All documentation on the feasibility assessment of a new scheme will be handed over to local councils, who now have responsibility for initiating any fluoridation scheme.
However, it is thought local councils are unlikely to foot the considerable bill.
Bolton Conservatives health spokesman Cllr Andy Morgan said: “Any future decision must go to the public and a full referendum.
“I tend to agree with David Crausby though.
There are other ways of targeting people from poorer background, with the likes of fluoride tablets and specialist toothpaste.
“However, any fluoridation can’t take place by local authority. What if Bury wanted it and Bolton didn’t? You can’t split the water. It has to be a regional decision.”
Dr Monik Vasant, Principal Dentist at Boltonbased Freshdental and current young dentist of the year in the North West, said: “It is seen in the dental profession as a very simple, safe and cost effective way of significantly reducing levels of tooth decay. In our region where decay levels in children are above those of other parts of the country, we should be doing all we can.
“The amounts we are talking is one part per million, it is such a small amount, but can bring a massive improvement to people’s oral health.
“Opponents argue that it is mass-medication and that there is a risk of fluorosis, but at those levels the risk is minimal. There is also long-term evidence from places like Birmingham, where they have fluoride in the water and tooth decay levels are significantly lower. It would be of huge benefit to every section of society.”
The debate as to whether to add extra fluoride to Bolton’s water supply has raged for more than 50 years.
Bolton held a referendum on fluoridation in the 1960s and the public voted overwhelmingly against the idea.