CONTROVERSIAL plans to add fluoride to the drinking water of Southampton residents have been scrapped.
In a statement released today, Public Health England, said: “Public Health England (PHE) will take no further action to implement a proposed water fluoridation scheme that would have served around 160,000 Southampton residents and a further 35,000 people in neighbouring parts of south west Hampshire.
“PHE endorses the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation in reducing children’s tooth decay but does not wish to proceed without the backing of Southampton City Council, the local authority where most of those who would benefit from fluoridation live. Both Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council oppose the scheme.”
The revelation came after pressure from the Southern Daily Echo, when we specifically asked PHE if the fluoride scheme for the city had been ditched.
PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “Water fluoridation would make a big difference to the dental health of Southampton children, particularly those in the most socially deprived areas. We regret having to drop the scheme, but we believe it is the right decision in the circumstances.
“We want to work with Southampton City Council to tackle Southampton’s high rates of tooth decay. We have offered support to the Council in coming up with plans to reduce tooth decay among local children.”
Cllr Royston Smith said: “That’s absolutely excellent news. They didn’t do a thorough and proper consultation with the public and this hopedully is a sign that they have listened to the concerns of residents and they have decided not to put floride in the water.
“If in future they decide to, they should carry out a full and thorough consultation.”
Professor Stephen Peckham, from campaign group Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said: “This is wonderful news.
“I don’t think there was a groundswell of support for fluoridation at all.
“I think this is absolutely right decision. I don’t think they would have had a legal leg to stand on anyway and I think it’s the only decision that was possible given the circumstances.
“What I hope now is that the councils take more interest in dealing with children’s oral health, and develop schemes that look at daily tooth brushing.”
John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “I welcome this decision. While I always recognised the health arguments in favour of fluoridation I consistently said that it could not go ahead without the clear consent of local people.
“The NHS has failed to persuade people and it is right that the scheme is dropped.”
City council cabinet member for health Dave Shields told the Daily Echo: “Clearly Public Health England had money available for the scheme to help us address dental health inequality in Southampton.
“If they have decided they don’t want to spend it on fluoride we want that money to be given to us to address our appalling dental health problems in other ways.
“We would welcome an opportunity to work with them.
“This has been hanging over Southampton for the last 20 years, so it’s time to put this behind us and move on.
“The health of our children is the important thing and getting hung up on this debate has been a bit of a distraction from the main thing at hand.”
New Forest county councillor David Harrison, who has campaigned against fluoridation, said: “This is tremendous news.
“I think it’s good news for two reasons. Firstly it’s good for the people of Southampton and the surrounding area that would have received this medication via their tap water.
“But it’s also good news because I think it sends out a message nationally that public health bodies cannot impose their wishes open people without their consent.
“I think after all of this time we can say there has been a break-out of common sense and I hope that no other public health bodies will try to do something like this again.”