The Department of Health (DH) is seeking views on the decision making process for adopting, maintaining and terminating new and existing water fluoridation schemes in England.
Responsibility for proposing and conducting consultations on local fluoridation schemes will transfer from Strategic Health Authorities to elected local authorities as of 1 April 2013, under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. A local authority may identify an oral health need among its population and incorporate a fluoridation proposal into its Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. The Secretary of State for Health has powers to regulate the consultation and decision making processes relating to the fluoridation proposals.
The DH document published today sets out options covering four broad themes:
- participation in initial decision making on a fluoridation proposal
- committee membership and procedures
- fluoridation decision-making (including assessment of evidence and public consultation)
- variation, termination and maintenance of existing fluoridation arrangements.
Within these themes, views are sought in particular on how the process should work in areas where more than one local authority would be affected by changes to a single water supply. The requirements for providing information to local residents are also considered, along with the weighting accorded to public opinion, scientific evidence and financial implications in reaching a final decision. The nature of the proposed advisory role played by Public Health England in supporting local authorities is also under consultation.
The consultation focuses solely on the procedure, rather than on the advantages or disadvantages of fluoridation itself.
The British Dental Association welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation, which runs until 27 November, and will submit comments.