12 Jun 2009

Andy Burnham gives up fluoride post over 'perceived conflict of interests'

Andy Burnham gives up fluoride post over 'perceived conflict of interests'
It's not quite a ministerial resignation, admittedly - but an interesting realignment of Andy Burnham's extra-curricular roles following inquiries by The Times. The Health Secretary, who has battled through a hefty workload this week of NHS budget cut rows and swine flu (and his heavy head cold), talked in strong terms about the importance of the 'prevention agenda' in his crusade on public health in his first speech (and striking call for a targets clear out) on Thursday. His audience of health service managers at the NHS Confederation's annual conference in Liverpool were told that putting fluoride in water supplies was a must for tackling poor rates of tooth decay in the young (read more here soon). The strategy remains highly divisive, with critics arguing that it's 'mass medicating' without any high-quality evidence of efficacy.
But Mr Burnham, hardening his predecessor Alan Johnson's support for more fluoridation, took the opportunity to call on health trusts to pursue fluoride where needed (it is a choice to be made by local authorities, supported by a recent law change that forces water companies to comply). But what of that vice president's position he has held with the British Fluoridation Society since 2004? The society may have thought he was still with them, but by this afternoon - and after a call from The Times - the position had been "relinquished" in case of any "perceived conflict of interests". One fears such a gesture won't appease the vocal members of the anti-fluoridation lobby, who claim that their groundswell of support is regularly ignored.

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