Portsmouth PCT's cautious request
31st March 2006
Hampshire & Isle of Wight SHA
RE Strategic Health Authority (SHA) request to Portsmouth City Teaching PCT that we consider inviting the SHA to undertake a feasibility study and public consultation in fluoridating the Portsmouth water
We discussed this issue at our board meeting on Wednesday 29th March 2006, and in a free vote agreed 7 to 5 in favour of formally asking the Strategic Health Authority to undertake a feasibility study and public consultation subject to certain conditions being met. Principally before we go ahead and ask you to undertake this activity we need to know how much the feasibility study and consultation will cost, it would also be useful to have a clear picture of exactly what will be involved in the feasibility study and what form the public consultation will take. It would be normal practice to understand the scope and cost of such a project before agreeing to it. So in short the board has given conditional approval to the feasibility and consultation subjected to a costed plan being approved by the board.
I thought it might be helpful if I put this decision into context. We received 11 often long and detailed letters from the public prior to our board meeting on this issue, we had 45 to 50 people attend our board meeting, this gives an indication of the depth of public feeling. Whilst as a board we were not being asked to consider if adding fluoride to the water is a good or a bad thing, it was very clear to us it is a very continuous activity to undertake. When asked out of curiosity for a show of hands from the public on whether they would support the board in us asking the SHA to undertake the feasibility study and consultation exercise, only five members of the public indicated they would, leaving over 40 clearly unhappy with our subsequent board decision.
In the interests of both continued public engagement and sensible use of public funds we as a board need to be clear that undertaking this feasibility and consultation exercise is going to be a sensible activity. With the very challenging financial situation in the NHS, the growing need for statutory consultations on a range of issues, the difficulty in genuinely assessing the conflicting fluoride evidence and the moral issue about enforcing people to ingest an added substance in their water for the benefit of others, we do need to be sure that the cost of the feasibility study and public consultation is going to be able to stand up to public scrutiny and will add some real value.
I hope this does help to put the board perspective into context. I look forward to your rely containing a costed feasibility and consultation plan and will ensure that we make time to take your response at our first available public board meeting so as not to cause significant delay.
With best wishes