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Volume 705: debated on Monday 17 November 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the purpose of fluoridation schemes in the United Kingdom is to improve dental health; and, if so, what benefits water fluoridation brings to children within the area of a scheme. [HL6127]

Water fluoridation offers the potential to reduce inequalities in oral health amongst children and adults. A Systematic Review of Public Water Fluoridation, published by the University of York in 2000, concluded that the fluoridation of drinking water achieves a 14.8 per cent reduction in the proportion of children who are free of dental caries and that children in fluoridated areas had, on average, 2.25 fewer teeth affected by decay than children in non-fluoridated areas. This has been estimated as equivalent to an overall 40 per cent reduction in tooth decay.

In 2002, the US Task Force on Community Preventive Services published a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which concluded that, overall, lifelong residents of fluoridated areas had 34.6 per cent less tooth decay than lifelong residents of non-fluoridated areas.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the introduction of water fluoridation to all households in an urban area is not considered by the chief dental officer in his guidance letter of February 2008 (Gateway 9361), Appendix 2, Section 7, to be a “substantial development of the health service” or a “substantial variation in the provision of such services” within Section 4 of the Local Authority (Overview and Scrutiny Committees Health Scrutiny Functions) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/3048); and whether they have taken legal advice on this matter. [HL6128]

Our advice is that the health service referred to in Regulation 4 of the Local Authority (Overview and Scrutiny Committees Health Scrutiny Functions) Regulations 2002 is the health service which the Secretary of State for Health has a continuing duty to promote under Section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006. However, the fluoridation of water supplies is an activity or service undertaken by the water undertaker under the Water Industry Act 1991 and is not a service under the NHS Act.