The 1st of November will mark the 1 year anniversary since the law change on the access to medical cannabis.
What should be a time of celebration is unfortunately a time of misery, hurt and pain for the many children and adults who, in many cases, still cannot access this life saving medication through the NHS.
To date, not a single NHS prescription has been granted since the law changed on the 1st of November 2018, with financially limited families and individuals having to pay extortionate fees to secure prescriptions and product privately.
Robin Emerson, Director and Founding member of ECTA, is the father of Jorja Emerson – the 3 year old with severe epilepsy who was granted the first child medical cannabis prescription after the law change. He had this to say;
“This continued block of medical cannabis is truly horrendous, and goes against the very essence of human rights that our United Kingdom claims to stand for.
Families are contacting me in complete despair over how they are going to maintain the supply of their medication given the cost of the private prescriptions which have transformed their children’s lives. Without NHS based access they will be forced to go back to fighting daily to stay alive with regular ambulance and hospital calls.”
“One mother of a young boy with a regressive brain condition, who’s private doctor wants to prescribe medical cannabis in order to help alleviate his suffering, simply cannot afford the huge monthly cost.”
“Parents are now looking to take action such as hunger strikes. This is a disgusting state of affairs that our Government has the power to rectify, and must do immediately or risk holding the responsibility for the avoidable deaths of one of these children as a result of it’s lack of action to address this growing problem.”
“As an election draws closer, let’s hope that all of the parties have the children and adults on their agenda who desperately need access. We at ECTA are working with government ministers and physicians to implement a realistic solution that would open access to those in need tomorrow. This simply needs government approval to action.”
The current UK Medical Cannabis prescription system:
The patient must make an appointment to see a specialist clinician at a local hospital trust. On 9 out of 10 occasions, the specialist clinician will have no understanding of Medical Cannabis and will simply say no to writing a prescription, leaving the patient with no recourse other than the private route or the unregulated market. Neither option is viable for the many who simply wish to get their medication from a pharmacy without huge cost or criminalisation.
On the occasion that the 1 out of 10 specialists agrees to write a prescription for the patient, it is then refused by the Hospital Trusts. They state that lack of support from NICE and lack of funding is the reason for this block.
This scenario has been repeated across the UK over the past year with not a single NHS prescription since the law change on the 1st of November 2018.
The government redirects the first port of call for the patient from a specialist clinician to their GP. The GP makes an assessment of the patient and if they decide that medical cannabis is deemed necessary for the patient, they seek the co-share sign off from a specialist, and then the prescription is written by the GP.
This process is only the same used for all chronic condition treatments and specials medicines, putting the primary responsibility under the GP who has more in-depth knowledge of the patient, and will move the responsibility from strictly budgeted NHS Hospital trusts and their Specialist Physicians.
ECTA have carried out initial cost assessments comparing CBPM with other Specials medicines, and liaising with pharmaceutical cannabis LPs, and it is clear that CBPM can be supplied at the same monthly cost per patient as the average specials medicine.
The unlicensed medication category, which holds approximately over 200 other medications, was indeed put in place to give access to patients like Jorja Emerson, and thousands of others like her, access on the NHS to a medication that has not yet received UK market authorisation to be prescribed where clinical need is met.
We believe the responsibility and cost of prescribing needs to be put back into the hands of the GP’s, and remove unnecessary bureaucracy denying access to a medication that the Government deemed necessary to change the law to enable access.
ECTA has also set up a group of private specialist clinicians who have written, or intend to write, medical cannabis prescriptions. These specialist clinicians would, in the short term, be in agreement to sign off co-care arrangements with the GPs in order to get prescriptions moving in the NHS. This would solve the current situation where NHS specialists may unfortunately be reluctant to sign off at this stage. The costs associated for these specialist clinicians will be covered by a group of private companies willing to fund this facility at no cost to the NHS or the patient.
This solution will enable everyone (with the appropriate clinical need) to get access to medical cannabis on the NHS immediately.
Indeed, NICE guidelines recommend that co-care is taken over by GPs in their interim guidance.
ECTA now has the support of a number of MPs to action the above changes and are asking the Government to make the appropriate changes to enable access.
Nationwide conferences and training:
ECTA will go on the road to cities across the UK in 2020 in order to host events which will educate clinicians and patients on medical cannabis.
ECTA have developed a free training platform for GP’s and specialists who are wishing to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK.
For further details contact
Robin Emerson, Director of ECTA +447555321456
Liam McGreevy, Director of ECTA +447738658223