Southampton is leading the way in seeking the public’s views on adding flouride to their tap water.
And this month, health chiefs step up the consultation by staging the first in a series of TV’s Question Time-style events.
The move is in light of high levels of tooth decay and is an attempt at turning around the city’s poor oral health.
Previous efforts by Southampton City PCT to improve dental health via education and other initiatives – such as tooth-brushing schemes – have failed to make an impact.
The South Central Strategic Health Authority (SCSHA) is inviting people who live or work in Southampton and the south-west Hampshire area to three of these Question Time-style events.
The proposal is to increase the level of fluoride in the Southampton water supply from its current level of 0.08 parts per million to 1 part per million – the level that is considered to offer the best impact in reducing tooth decay.
But anti-fluoride campaigners are against the proposal arguing that excessive fluoride has links with bone cancer and brittle bone disease as well as dental fluorosis.
However, the aim of these events is to give local people the opportunity to learn about fluoridation proposal from SCSHA and Included on the panel will be clinical experts as well as representatives from the Department of Health, Southampton City PCT and Hampshire Against Fluoridation.
The discussions will be chaired by BBC Radio 4 presenter and journalist, Peter White.
Consultation ends on 19 December and the final decision on fluoridation will be made in February 2009.
Kevin McNamara – a member of the public consultation team at South Central Strategic Health Authority – said: ‘This is an important issue for everyone living in Southampton or the south-west Hampshire area, many people may have read about the proposal in their local paper or heard about it from friends; and people will have questions, concerns and opinions about the proposal.
‘I would encourage anyone who wants to find out more to come along to one of the Question Time events and find out the facts, ask questions and share their views. The views of those who live or work in the area will help the Board of the Strategic Health Authority to make a final decision next year.’
The dates and venues are:
• 20 October – St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, 7pm-9pm
• 18 November – St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, 7pm-9pm
• 3 December – St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, 7pm-9pm
Anyone interested in attending any of these events needs to register their attendance before hand so that any special requirements can be catered for.
You can register online http://www.southcentral.nhs.uk/fluoridation/ or by calling 0800 023 4680. Questions can be submitted in advance during the application for a ticket or at the event.
You can request a copy of the consultation document, find out more about the proposal and how you can share your views online at www.southcentral.nhs.uk/fluoridation, by calling 0800 023 4680, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Freepost Plus RRXJ-KCHJ-KUHB, Fluoridation Consultation, South Central Strategic Health Authority, Rivergate House, Newbury Business Park, Newbury RG14 2PZ.
• Meanwhile, Burnley is considering beginning the same consultation process in an effort to improve the oral health in the town.
Health bosses at a meeting of East Lancashire PCT Primary Care Trust heard cases for and against fluoridation, and backed a recommendation to ask the North West Strategic Health Authority to carry out further investigations into the feasibility of a water fluoridation scheme.
Dr Ellis Friedman, NHS East Lancashire public director, said all PCTs in the North West have been asked if they want the Strategic Health Authority to explore the possibility of adding fluoride to the public water supply.
He said: ‘We are not in a public consultation process at this stage but believe in having an engagement process and, if required, would be fully supportive of a public consultation process. There is going to be a lot of debate about fluoridation today and in the future.’