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GP medical cannabis prescribing could cut waiting times and reduce crime

Image of new Protect Our Patients Campaign report

According to a new report from the Cannabis Industry Council, allowing GPs to prescribe medical cannabis could reduce NHS waiting lists and reduce crime.

Maple Tree Consultants, supporters of the CIC's Protect Our Patients campaign, consider it critical to examine the potential impact GP prescribing could have on the UK healthcare system. In the UK, only specialist consultants can prescribe medical cannabis, leading to restricted access, long waiting lists, and illegal acquisition from the illicit market.

The report, available to read in full on the CIC's website, highlights a range of benefits that adopting the recommendations could bring.

What difference could GP medical cannabis prescribing make?

Dr. Sunil Arora, Co-Chair of the CIC Prescription Cannabis Working Group, said:

“The current model where only consultants can prescribe medical cannabis is simply not working in the interests of the majority of patients or society at large. Allowing GPs to prescribe would expand patient access, reduce NHS waiting lists, and help cut crime. The Cannabis Industry Council urges regulators and policymakers to support these modest but transformative proposals to allow GPs to prescribe to their patients.”

  • In the UK, chronic pain affects approximately 34% of adults. With so many individuals on NHS waiting lists (7.4 million with the potential to rise to 10 million by 2024), a significant number are likely chronic pain sufferers who could access life-changing medical cannabis treatment more easily through GP prescribing.

  • Medical cannabis presents a more sustainable and less harmful option than opioid prescribing and outperforms opioid prescriptions in terms of cost-effectiveness. Opioids have a well-documented detrimental impact on individuals and communities, and the number of opioid prescriptions has surged by 35% over the past decade, with 50 million opioid prescriptions written in the UK in 2020.

  • Despite the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK five years ago, there is an enormous discrepancy between the number of private and NHS patients receiving prescriptions, leading to a significant portion of the population resorting to the illicit market for medical cannabis. GPs, at the front lines of healthcare, could transform access to this treatment.

  • The UK is falling behind countries like Australia, Germany, and Denmark, which lead the way in GP prescription of medical cannabis, where the stigma around medical cannabis has notably diminished with an increased uptake among women and elderly populations.

What needs to change?

The report's recommendations are clear. The UK should allow GPs to prescribe cannabis medicines based on the best practises undertaken by similar jurisdictions elsewhere, including Australia, Denmark, and Germany. This can be achieved by amending the 'Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) (Cannabis and Licence Fees) (England, Wales, and Scotland) Regulations 2018', section 4, to say 'specialist or general medical practitioner'.

Implementing this recommendation would alleviate the strain on the NHS caused by opioid addiction, ensure affordable access for patients, reduce productivity losses from illness, strengthen the economy, and curb crime.

Next steps

Maple Tree Consultants attended the CIC's Parliamentary Launch event on 17 July, where speakers, including Crispin Blunt MP, put forward the recommendations.

An early-day motion has been tabled calling for GPs to have the same medical cannabis prescribing rights as specialists. Supporters are urged to contact their MPs to encourage them to sign EDM 1410.

Read the full report on the CIC's website and explore the Protect Our Patients campaign.


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