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Campaigners call out Health Secretary’s claims of ‘expanding’ access to medical cannabis



Medical cannabis report: A woman and her son
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The Health Secretary has been accused of ‘lacking in backbone’ by medical cannabis campaigners fighting for prescriptions to be available on the NHS.

Parents and campaigners have responded to Matt Hancock’s claims that the Government has made ‘significant progress’ in expanding access to medical cannabis.

The Secretary of State was quizzed by Labour MP and prominent campaigner Tonia Antoniazzi in parliament on Tuesday 6 October over whether he would fund the medical cannabis prescriptions for severely ill children.

It comes after the Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann took unprecedented action and committed to paying for 15-year-old Billy Caldwell’s medical cannabis prescription last month.

Parents of children with intractable epilepsy across the UK, who are currently spending up to £2,000 a month on prescriptions, have repeatedly called for Westminster to follow suit.

Despite no new medical cannabis prescriptions being issued on the NHS since the law changed in November 2018, Mr Hancock claimed yesterday that ‘significant progress’ has been made.He commented: “We have made significant progress in terms of expanding access where that is clinically safe to do so and I will, on this as on so many things, make sure that I constantly follow the clinical evidence.”

But some of those from the End Our Pain campaign have claimed that he is clearly not clued up on the current situation.

Joanne Griffiths, whose son Ben (pictured)has severe epilepsy and has been treated with Bedrocan for 18 months, commented: “The only expansion has been in the private sector, when it should be free via the NHS at the point of individual need.

“My son has been successfully treated with Bedrocan’s cannabis oils for 18 months, but because the health secretary has never given a pot of funding to start the roll out of these medications, the Trusts fear they won’t be reimbursed, so won’t prescribe due to costs.

“Someone has to take responsibility for the lack of NHS movement in two years on this.”The Health Secretary and some members of the medical profession have also been accused of refusing to acknowledge existing clinical evidence.

“It is clear to me that Matt Hancock doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of this situation. He said significant progress has been made on access to medical cannabis, yet not one single new NHS prescription has been issued since the law changed,” said Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley was the first patient in the UK to receive a permanent cannabis licence.

“There is a huge amount of clinical evidence throughout the world and Matt Hancock and the NHS should be reaching out to colleagues to learn and be educated on this subject not denying its

Professor Mike Barnes, a neurologist and prominent medical cannabis campaigner, added: “As usual the Secretary of State has dodged the question and is hiding behind the convenient barrier of deeply conservative medics who refuse to acknowledge the evidence of the efficacy and safety of cannabis.

“It’s sad that he can be so lacking in backbone.”