LAST month South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) sent me its public consultation document on adding fluoride to the water supply in some parts of our area. In section 5 we are told that “all views and comments, together with the best scientific evidence, will be taken into account” before any final decision, which “will not be based solely on a simple count of the representation for or against the proposal”.
There is no doubt that highly qualified scientists disagree about the possible long-term effects on adults of adding a chemical to the water supply primarily for the benefit of infants. For that reason, I incline towards the “no” camp; “if in doubt leave it out” seems to me a sensible precaution where adding chemicals to everyone’s water supply is concerned.
The problem with the SHA document is that its authors clearly have their mind made up. The pros and cons are supposedly set out on pages 15-23. The first page-and-a-half sets out the benefits without challenge. The remaining 7 pages set out the objections – but only to rebut them in each and every case.
The prize for partiality must go to Southampton City Primary Care Trust, which has evidently spent shedloads of public money producing and distributing blatantly one-sided propaganda. My favourite is the glossy postcard (with prepaid first-class postage) for people to sign and send off to the SHA – despite the fact that the SHA says it will not be relying solely on the number of responses received.
We all know a crooked ballot when we see one – and this is a crooked ballot. The SHA reserves the right to disregard the numbers of people responding and to reply instead on its own assessments of the arguments deployed. Yet, they themselves have already indicated their complete rejection of the arguments deployed against fluoridation. They will undoubtedly use a flood of returned postcards – with little space to deploy arguments – to boost their already-made decision in favour for fluoridation, even though these had been unfairly generated by the abuse of public funds to promote only one side of the argument.
The Cabinet Office code of practice on such consultations requires that “Responses should be carefully and open-mindedly analysed”. This is clearly not happening. Has someone out there enough money to bring a court case to stop a tainted consultation leading to a tainted water supply?