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Medical Cannabis Under Prescription

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:23 pm on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:23 pm, 20th May 2019

That is not an unusual case. There are lots of people who want to use medical cannabis and do not want to buy it from the street or go to Holland to import cannabis products, and they are frustrated.

I will wind up, because I have been speaking for longer than I intended. On the funding issue, there are cases of clinicians being willing to prescribe but being blocked by trusts or CCGs. What is the Minister’s understanding of how many cases there are where funding is the issue, rather than prescription? Even where clinicians are willing to prescribe and there is new thinking, CCGs do not have budget lines for some of these products, so the reluctance is understandable. I am interested to know whether the Minister has any information on that.

It might cost more for the NHS to supply more medical cannabis prescriptions, but we have to compare that with the reduction in other costs. The estimate is that opioid costs would be 25% lower, and there would be fewer hospital admissions. Professor Mike Barnes said in his evidence to the Select Committee that we could probably introduce medical cannabis in this country on the NHS at no net cost, when we take into account the reduced costs elsewhere.

Our system is clearly too restrictive. It is not working. We need creative thinking and flexibility from the Government, and we need them to look at the different types of evidence from around the world. There are people in this country who, if they were living in Holland, Australia or Canada, would be able to get on with their lives, get their cannabis products legally and not have the worries of the campaigners in our Gallery today about them or their children and relatives having to go through chronic pain or the episodes of epilepsy that we have seen in young patients over the last year.

We all want to make some progress and are desperately frustrated that we are not able to get anywhere. I refer the Minister to the evidence given by Professor Mike Barnes. We need to look at other types of evidence to inform ourselves of a way to deliver the products that our patients need into their hands.