The future funding of water fluoridation schemes was discussed in Parliament on 29 February, as the Health and Social Care Bill continued its passage through the House of Lords. An amendment to the Bill was proposed requiring the Department of Health and Public Health England to allocate ring-fenced funds for fluoridation schemes, and to hold those funds on behalf of local authorities. At present the Bill states that local authorities will have to fund future schemes from their existing public health budgets.
The amendment was proposed by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, president of the British Fluoridation Society, who said that his intention in doing so was to ensure that running costs of current fluoridation schemes would be reflected in the allocation of funds to affected local authorities, and that funds would be available should other local authorities decide to introduce schemes.
Also speaking in favour of the amendment was Lord Colwyn, Conservative peer and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dentistry, who argued that the proposed arrangements for paying for fluoridation schemes was ‘complex’ and ‘bureaucratic’. The Bill proposes that local authorities operating fluoridation schemes will transfer the necessary funds to Public Health England – the new body overseeing national public health programmes – who will then pay the bills for fluoridation to the relevant water companies. Lord Colwyn said it would be easier and more efficient if the funds for fluoridation schemes were given directly to Public Health England to administer.
Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Northover gave an assurance that the funds for existing fluoridation schemes would be reflected in the public health budget allocations to local authorities. With regard to future schemes she said that it was for local authorities to decide what priority they would give to various health issues, and how best to address oral health if they felt this was a priority. The amendment was withdrawn by Lord Hunt without being taken to a vote.