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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Labour, Gower 6:33 pm, 23rd October 2019

I thank my hon. Friend; I look forward to keeping on working with him.

It has been an uphill struggle. While thousands of people across the world have access to medicinal cannabis, the law was preventing patients in the UK from accessing it.

We have worked with the amazing families of the End Our Pain campaign, spearheaded by the amazing Hannah Deacon, who is mum to Alfie Dingley. Hannah’s campaigning meant that she got a special licence for Alfie to continue to use the cannabis that had transformed his life in the Netherlands. Then Sophia Gibson and Billy Caldwell were given prescriptions for medical cannabis. The highlight came last year, on 1 November, when there was a change in the law to reclassify cannabis so that it was available for medical use.

At the time, we thought that would mean that the children who were suffering would be able to have cannabis prescribed by specialist consultants. It turned out that that was not the case, so many other children were not given access to this life-changing medicine. Children from all over the UK continue to suffer because the Government are dragging their feet. The medicine is proven to work for many types of sufferers, but children are still being pumped full of steroids and unlicensed drugs that leave them severely impaired. The effect on the families has been terrible—on the children, the siblings and the parents. It is just not fair.

No one claims that this is a miracle drug. It is not a cure for epilepsy, but it does make a huge difference to the quality of children’s lives. Everyone has a right to live their best life.

I have worked closely with the parents of Bailey Williams from Cardiff, Rachel and Craig. I have seen at first hand the difference that this medicine has made to their son. When I called at their house one evening, Bailey got out of the chair, picked up a bunch of flowers and brought them to me. I actually cried to see a child who previously could not get out of bed get up out of a chair and give me a gift of thanks.

A lot of other children have the same story. Alfie has been riding a bike and a horse—something that would never have happened when he was on his previous drugs. The problem is that Alfie is getting to a point where the efficacy of this type of medicinal cannabis is dulling. As with all long-term medication, he needs a review and to be put on a new strain. However, the strict restrictions mean that even Alfie will not be able to access a new strain. As his tolerance to his medication builds, he is beginning to have more seizures. What next for Alfie? What will the Secretary of State do?

As we approach the anniversary of the law change, I want to reflect on what has happened to the lives of the families I have worked with, as co-chair of the all-party group on medical cannabis under prescription along with Sir Mike Penning. At the End Our Pain campaign event on 19 March, the Secretary of State told the families that he would make sure they got the medicine they needed. However, more than six months on from that promise and nearly a year on from the law change, not one new NHS prescription has been made, not one child has benefited from medical cannabis, and not one family have been able to move on with their lives.