Public wades into fluoride debate
 

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Public wades into fluoride debate

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Public wades into fluoride debate

 

Public wades into fluoride debate

Health officials running the consultation into proposals to fluoridate Southampton's water supply have reported an ‘unusually' large response from the public.

The Strategic Health Authrity (SHA) said it had received 5,000 replies from residents of Southampton and surrounding areas, including letters, emails, forms and postcards sent by campaign groups.

They included 1,000 responses to a feedback form received just days after it was sent out to more than 110,000 homes.

The SHA believes it is ‘very possible' the form, which asks residents to detail their views on fluoridation, will generate a higher number of responses – before the process ends on 19 December – than the usual 2-5% return rate found in typical health consultations.

The SHA has held eight drop-in events, each lasting eight hours, where local people have been invited to find out more information and ask questions.

It has organised three question-time debates, all of which were filmed and made available on the SHA's website for later viewing.

It is also hiring polling organisation, ICM, to conduct a phone poll of 2,000 randomly selected residents to test the views of people ‘in the middle' of the two sides.

Kevin McNamara, who is leading the public consultation for the SHA, said: ‘The consultation is as comprehensive as we can get, and we are doing well over and above what we are required to do by law.'

The pressure on the SHA to carry out the consultation properly is acute, with strong views on both sides of the debate.

The SHA, as organiser of the consultation, is expected and determined to remain ‘objective' on the debate, and has gone to great lengths to head off allegations of bias, including asking an independent analyst to compile a report on the responses to the feedback forms and inviting opponents of fluoridation to debate the proposals at question time events.

Mr McNamara said: ‘It shows you the importance with which we take the need to make sure the consultation is carried out properly. We have to remain objective.'

The SHA has stressed the consultation is ‘not a vote', and it is not bound to follow the majority view. Instead, it hopes to use the results to help establish what the views of the public are to help inform its decision.

Anyone wishing to respond to the consultation can do so at www.southcentral.nhs.uk/fluoridation by 19 December.

 Posted on : Mon 1st - Dec - 2008

 

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