Readers of my website will know that over the past nine months I have been doing my level best to help one local family who are in a heart breaking situation involving the access to medical cannabis for their severely epileptic teenage son.
Following the high-profile cases of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, last July saw the Home Secretary take the pragmatic step to re-schedule cannabis-derived medical products, thus permitting their legal prescription by clinicians. Following careful consideration, the move that came into effect in November.
In the interim before a decision was reached, an independent expert panel was established to issue licenses for prescriptions of medical cannabis as a way for patients in urgent need to legally access the otherwise prohibited medicines. Regrettably, this process was not without problems. Now, despite the Government’s best efforts to ease their availability, many continue to find the barriers to legally accessing medical cannabis too restrictive, as is the situation faced by my constituents. As a result, they have had to take the drastic decision to seek cannabidiol treatment for their son in the Netherlands; the positive effects of which I am told have been striking.
As the father of two young children, this terribly sad situation resonated deeply with me. As such, I persistently pressed the Home Office for as much clarity as possible on when the re-scheduling would come into effect and, more recently, lent my support to the APPG On Medical Cannabis under Prescription’s call for Ministers to address the barriers to accessing medical cannabis that remain despite its re-scheduling.
Today, the End our Pain campaign, which looks to highlight the persisting difficulties around accessing medical cannabis, hosted an event in Parliament that was extremely well-attended and served as an important opportunity for similarly affected families to meet their MPs and share their experiences.
I was in attendance and met with the father of the young boy I’ve been supporting to discuss just how difficult coping with his seizures has been for the family over the years. It was great to see so many colleagues from across the House sharing our concerns and it was even better to learn that the Health Secretary made an unexpected appearance to express sympathy for the families’ plight and his readiness to fully engage with the challenge they were facing. At the drop-in, I and 100 co-signatories signed a letter to the Health Secretary that called on him to do everything within his power to intervene and break this deadlock, and given his attendance I am optimistic that we could see some positive progress on this front before long.
With each passing day, more potentially irreversible damage is caused by seizures to lives, both young and old, that might have benefited from treatment with cannabis-derived medicines. To stop this from happening any longer than it must, and to prevent patients and their families making the onerous decision to seek treatment outside the UK, I will continue to push for Ministers to do everything in their power to ease the access to these potentially life-changing medicines.