IT is meant to be the independent body even-handedly navigating the tricky waters of a public consultation over controversial plans that have split opinion.
But the organisation that oversees Hampshire’s healthcare has been formally accused of being biased over proposals to add fluoride to the tap water of nearly 200,000 residents.
On the eve of the consultation process being finalised, anti-fluoridation campaigners have lodged a complaint with South Central Strategic Health Authority, saying decisions have been based on flawed information.
Hampshire Against Fluoridation believes failings in the process mean at least £180,000 of public money has already essentially been wasted.
Tomorrow, the authority’s board is due to decide on the details of how the three-month public consultation – being conducted at the request of Southampton Primary Care Trust which wants fluoridation – will be carried out.
But ahead of that meeting HAF’s chairman, John Spottiswoode has called on the SHA to abandon the fluoridation process before that starts.
“The public consultation is clearly going to be a sham, being run as a propaganda exercise for water fluoridation, with the aim of achieving a pre-determined outcome,” he said.
“The whole fluoridation episode is a disgrace to the health authorities and undermines any trust or confidence that we may have placed in their decisions in the past.”
As previously reported by the Daily Echo, public views expressed during the consultation could be ignored if they are not based on accepted scientific reasoning and evidence.
That means a majority of respondents could potentially say they do not want fluoride added to the water supplies, but the scheme being given the green light anyway.
The SHA was last night unable to issue a formal comment on the complaints, but insisted the process would be fair, and no decision has yet been made on the plans to add fluoride to water.
The controversial proposals will see 160,000 residents – 67 per cent of the city’s population – receiving added fluoride in their tap water in a bid to improve the city’s chronic dental health problems. Around 36,000 more living in Eastleigh, Totton and Netley would also get extra fluoride as their homes are covered by the same water distribution centre.
A report going before SHA board members tomorrow says the proposals for the consultation have been checked by solicitors to ensure it is run according to legal guidelines set down by the Government especially for fluoridation.
Although the details have yet to be confirmed, the report says the consultation will include public drop-in events and Question Time style debates to allow residents to voice their concerns and have queries answered.
Leaflets and posters will be displayed in GP practices, dental surgeries, libraries and other community centres to increase awareness, and regular updates will be posted on a special website.