Specialist doctors can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for epilepsy
As of this morning (1 November), specialist doctors in the UK can now prescribe cannabis-based medicines to patients with a limited number of conditions. This includes children with severe epilepsy syndromes.
Only hospital-based specialist doctors doctors can prescribe medicinal cannabis where there is clear evidence of benefit and where all other options have been exhausted. GPs will not be able to prescribe the medication.
A specialist is a doctor with a focus on a specific field of medicine such as neurology or paediatrics.
If a patient is not already in touch with a specialist doctor, they can ask their GP to refer them where appropriate.
Guidelines on medicinal cannabis
The NHS has produced new guidance for doctors and information for members of the public.
Campaigning to change law
The change in law follows Home Secretary Sajid Javid's response to concerns from the parents of children with severe epilepsy, who were campaigning for the government to legalise medicinal cannabis.
Previously, doctors were required to seek approval from experts before patients could access these medications. However, this will no longer be a requirement.
The decisions on prescriptions for cannabis-based products for medicinal use must be made on a case-by-case basis, so the drug is prescribed to those that need it.
The Home Office has announced that all those seeing a specialist should discuss their treatment plan with them.
No plans to legalise recreational use of cannabis
The Home Secretary has made it clear that the legalisation of medicinal cannabis does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.