HEALTH chiefs will have the time they need to put fluoride in Hampshire’s tap water supplies before their organisation is axed, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Anti-fluoride campaigners had hoped Government plans to scrap regional health bodies next spring would mean the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) couldn’t get the framework in place before it lost its powers.
The SHA had been facing a race against time to put the controversial plan into practice.
But now the body looks to have been given a 12-month reprieve – giving it long enough to implement the fluoride scheme.
Earlier this year, the SHA defeated a High Court legal challenge designed to stop fluoridation, and work on the scheme, which had been on hold for virtually two years, was restarted.
The authority said last night it was now confident fluoride could be in the water within as little as 18 months.
As part of Government reforms of the NHS, powers over fluoride had been due to be handed to elected councils as part of the changes, leading to calls for the SHA to scrap its plans, and leaving uncertainty over whether fluoride could be stopped if it was already in place.
But the Government has now revised its proposals – giving SHAs a reprieve until Spring 2013. By then, the infrastructure could be ready to add the chemical to tap water supplies delivered to parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
And even once the SHAs are axed, it now looks likely their powers over new schemes will be handed to the new national body Public Health England.
Southampton City Council has now launched an investigation to try to find out what its powers will be, with bosses expecting to be given responsibility for dental health.
The SHA said last night it is working with Southern Water towards starting delivering fluoridated water to nearly 200,000 residents.
Deputy director of public health, Dr James Mapstone said: “There are a number of technical steps that need to be undertaken before the water in parts of Southampton and south west Hampshire receive additional fluoride.
“We are aiming that this will be completed in 2013.”
Southampton councillors this week passed a motion vowing to debate fluoride fully in September, after campaign group Hampshire Against Fluoridation forced the subject onto the agenda through a public petition calling for the authority to say it rejects the plans.
Before the SHA unanimously backed the scheme, 72 per cent of the 10,000 respondents to a public consultation said they opposed fluoride.
Lib Dem group deputy leader Gerry Drake, who tabled this week’s original motion, said he believes the council should have the power to prevent fluoride getting in the water.
He said: “I honestly feel that the people of Southampton should have a say.
“Whatever body you’ve got across the land should represent the people of that land, and the people don’t want it.”