PLANS to add fluoride to the water in Greater Manchester have been delayed because of a legal challenge to a similar proposal elsewhere.
Health bosses have decided to wait and see whether campaigners opposed to a fluoridation scheme in Southampton win a judicial review there before deciding whether to hold a public consultation into the issue here.
Primary care trusts – PCTs – were due to be asked to consider detailed plans for a local scheme over the summer but this will now be delayed until at least the autumn but possibly until next year.
Mike Farrar, chief executive of NHS North West, which is researching the scheme and would hold a public consultation on the plans on behalf of the PCTs, says costs of a possible scheme have ‘increased significantly’.
In a statement to the NHS North West board he said: “Following the decision of NHS South Central to proceed with a fluoridation scheme in Southampton, local opponents have sought permission for a judicial review.
“At the time of writing the outcome of this application is not yet known. Should permission be granted, the process may take several months and it is prudent for NHS North West to wait for the outcome before committing significant resources on this matter.”
The High Court is expected to make a preliminary ruling on whether there is a case to answer in Southampton any time now.
If campaigners meet the criteria to allow the case to go ahead it is expected to be listed late this year and NHS North West will wait for the outcome of the case before taking the next step.
When the Southampton case finishes, all 24 of the north west’s PCTs will be sent the updated plans. which are expected to include details of four possible schemes. Last year a report suggested it would cost between £35m and £102m to set up as scheme for adding fluoride to the water system in parts of the region but all of them include most of Greater Manchester.
Health chiefs have identified four options: to add fluoride to the entire north west water supply (80 water plants); water supplied to Greater Manchester, Merseyside and parts of Lancashire (21 plants); Greater Manchester, Merseyside, parts of Lancashire and Cumbria (21 plants); 18 plants which supply most of Greater Manchester and Merseyside and parts of Lancashire and Cumbria.
The schemes would cost between £2m and £6.5m a year to run.
The British Dental Association say putting fluoride into some water supplies ‘could dramatically reduce the levels of tooth decay and give children a decent start in life’.
But anti-fluoride campaigners say it is potentially dangerous mass medication. They oppose a public consultation, claiming people are being misled.