UK Doctors can finally start to prescribe medical cannabis to patients on November 1st 2018. The decision to make medical cannabis legal was taken by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid following a speedy review set up following some high profile cases. Doctors found that children Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley needed cannabis oil to control their seizures. The Home Office tried to deny the cannabis oil to the children, the ensuing negative publicity was too much for the Home Office who quickly changed position.
From November 1st 2018, Hospital Consultants in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be able to prescribe cannabis. It will be up to the individual consultant whether to decide prescribe cannabis. The current guidelines are broad enough to include the use of cannabis oil and buds, however if you do get a prescription of buds you will be asked to vape them rather than smoke them. Smoking will not be an approved usage method, vaporizers will be. Full details are available here in the Home Office Explanatory Memorandum.
Many consultants will have had absolutely no training or advice on the medical uses of cannabis. So it will be up to the Government to develop detailed guidelines, which may take up to a year. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (‘NICE’) will decide how it will work, along with guidelines on typical quantities to prescribe etc. During this time it is quite possible that the UK will change regulations to allow general practitioners to prescribe cannabis. At the moment the regulations don’t allow for GPs to prescribe cannabis.
However, general doctors do deal with the majority of primary patient care in the UK, so creating guidelines for GPs to prescribe cannabis would save a lot of work for hospital consultants and seems a logical route to take. The guidelines created by the government extensively mention GPs and GP training but so far there is no clear plan to roll out responsibility for cannabis prescriptions to GPs.
UK medical cannabis users will therefore need to speak to their consultant to get cannabis. If the consultant doesn’t grant permission for a cannabis prescription the only option for the patient is to ask their GP to refer them to another specialist. Maybe in the future, medical cannabis users will also be able to consult their GP’s but that will require some new regulations which many expect to be put in place during the coming months. However their are no public plans to do that just yet.
November 5th 2018