Fluoride Action Network

Southampton: Public Health England to go ahead with fluoride plans in thousands of Hampshire homes

Source: Daily Echo | April 8th, 2013 | By James Franklin, Political reporter
Location: United Kingdom, England

Fluoride will be added to tap water in thousands of Hampshire homes – unless the scheme’s opponents find a last-ditch solution.

Despite the demise of the organisation which voted through the controversial scheme, its successor Public Health England says it will carry out fluoridation affecting about 200,000 people.

Its opponents, including local councils, are currently considering their remaining options to kill off the scheme.

Fluoridation has proved hugely controversial since the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) first unveiled its plans.

The plans, to put fluoride into water in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams, were unanimously approved in 2009 despite consultation showing the majority of people who responded did not want it to be implemented.

A judicial challenge by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis and Hampshire county councillor David Harrison to stop fluoridation was thrown out by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman last year.

The SHA was axed by the Government on March 31, but as the process of fluoridation had already started responsibility for implementing it has passed to the new Public Health England (PHE) body instead of local authorities.

And PHE, which only took on its new responsibilities on Tuesday, says it will carry out the work of implementing fluoridation.

A spokesmen said: “Public Health England – a new national body across England – will be assuming responsibility for the implementation process of the water fluoridation scheme in Southampton and parts of south west Hampshire area.

“The approach used will be consistent with other water fluoridation schemes across the country, all of which will be centrally managed by PHE.

“The local implementation process is ongoing and PHE will shortly start discussions with Southern Water.

“The technical feasibility study which was carried out before the 2008 consultation is being updated by Southern Water. The final report is not yet completed.”

A technical feasibility report detailing whether new building work is required is currently being finalised.

It will be presented to Public Health England within the next two months, meaning fluoridation will only begin next year at the earliest.

Both Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council have expressed their concerns and civic chiefs are currently being briefed about their options.

City council deputy leader Jacqui Rayment said: “A lot of the new public health responsibilities make sure fluoridation will be back on the city council’s agenda in the next few weeks.

“We will be briefed in terms of our options.

“The last time this came to council there was a free vote, and I don’t think the council position has changed since then.”

One option may be appealing to central Government to intervene and scrap the scheme.

And Cllr Harrison has said the amount of time that has lapsed since the initial consultation means there may be renewed calls for new consultation.

John Spottiswoode, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, said the group was looking to take legal advice.

Members are holding a public event at Solent University’s conference centre on May 11 at 1.30pm, where new ways to challenge the scheme will be debated.

Although another avenue may be open to councils, it is dependent on whether new Department of Health guidelines are approved.

The proposed guidelines allowing councils to axe the scheme if residents are against it are currently being considered following consultation.

A decision on whether to approve the new guidelines will be made later this year.