ONE of the many things that have angered all of us opposed to the plan to add fluoride to Southampton’s drinking water is that the decision was made by unelected officials.
Members of the South Central Strategic Health Authority board, who made the decision to fluoridate the city’s water, are either paid staff or are given their role as non-executive directors by the NHS Appointments Commission.
In other words there is no opportunity for local people to have a say in who runs their health services, and of course, no way of stopping these unelected people from doing whatever they want.
Southampton Liberal Democrats are totally opposed to the proposal to add fluoride to drinking water. We also have policies for the way local health services are run that would make it unlikely a decision like this could be made without public support.
First of all we would scrap strategic health authorities which are expensive, unnecessary and undemocratic.
We would then set up elected health boards to replace primary care trusts (PCTs). This is important because it was a request from Southampton City PCT in 2005 that prompted the strategic health authority to first look at fluoridating Southampton’s water.
These new elected health boards would not be able to ignore a public consultation which showed 72 per cent of people opposed to having fluoride in their tap water because they would be voted out.
So in Southampton each person who has a vote would get the chance to choose who they want to see running their primary care services such as GP surgeries.
Elected health boards would also take over the PCT role of commissioning hospital services. This gives them huge influence over hospitals and might, you never know, stop them raising car park charges again and again as has happened at Southampton General Hospital.
It is also Liberal Democrat policy to give local councils more power to scrutinise health authorities, and this would be another check on hospital bosses raking in millions from people who need to park their car when they are visiting a sick relative.
Health service managers have shown they cannot be trusted to apply common sense and to listen to local people – we need to give everyone a chance to have their say.