End Our Pain – access to medical cannabis for children with severe epilepsy

This campaign raises concern that since the law change of November 2018 allowing the prescription of medical cannabis it is still not widely available through an NHS prescription. It specifically relates to families with children suffering from severe drug resistant epilepsy.

I sympathise with the concerns of patients and their families who suffer on a daily basis and are seeking treatments to ease their symptoms. It is vital that our NHS supports all people affected by epilepsy, estimated at between 362,000 and 415,000 across England, to live healthy, independent lives. As I understand it the use of medical cannabis to treat epilepsy is only used for a small number of patients suffering from rare forms of the problem. The decision on whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is not a political one, but a decision for a medical expert, who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual’s particular condition. I appreciate that there may be funding issues due to the very high cost of this and these decisions must be left to clinicians.

I was pleased to see the change in the law in 2018 to allow the prescription of medical cannabis in these rare cases. These things need to be kept under ongoing review as new evidence becomes available. NHS England has published a review which is aimed at assessing the barriers to prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products, where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.  There is clearly a need for more work on this going forward.