Patient advocacy group PLEA has launched a new platform to guide patients through every stage of understanding and accessing medical cannabis treatment in the UK.
For the first time, patients looking to access cannabis medicines will be able to easily compare their options and make informed decisions when it comes to navigating treatment.
PLEA’s patient resources include a comprehensive clinic directory, comparing all aspects from costs, average waiting times and specialities to how consultations are conducted and where medication will be dispensed.
It also details the various access schemes and projects operating in the sector, such as Project Twenty21 and compares cannabis cards, covering what each offers for patients, how they can apply and crucially, how to spot a fake scheme.
Created by patients, for patients, the videos, printable brochures, and how-to guides will offer tips for managing stigma from healthcare professionals and in the community, among friends and family, with videos of members of PLEA’s patient community sharing their own experience.
There are now more than 4,000 legal medical cannabis patients in the UK, but around 1.4 million people are still thought to be self-medicating illicitly.
In the last 12 months the number of certified clinic operations has expanded rapidly, and with it the number of safe prescriptions being issued.
But with little guidance out there for new patients, the market can leave them feeling overwhelmed, PLEA advocacy director, Lucy Stafford told Cannabis Health.
“What we’re offering is essentially a step-by-step process on how to obtain a prescription,” she said.
“We want to make it as easy and as straightforward as possible, these are big decisions to make, with huge amounts of money, time and energy involved, patients deserve to have access to all the information they can get.”
Lucy, who is prescribed cannabis for symptoms related to Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) knows first hand how difficult it can be to navigate the legal prescription process.
“It can feel quite daunting and overwhelming and there are lots of very vulnerable people accessing treatment who are often coming to cannabis as a last resort,” she continued.
“If I had had access to a hub of information where I could work out what was best for me, I would have been able to make a much more informed decision about my care.”
PLEA was founded in 2020 and is run voluntarily by a team of experienced patient advocates to challenge the inequalities in access to cannabis-based medicinal products and improve things for patients.
Although cannabis medicines are still not widely available on the NHS, costs are coming down and treatment is becoming more accessible if you have access to the right information.
“Medical cannabis is the most affordable and accessible it’s ever been, but the lack of clear and unbiased information on treatment options can be confusing for patients,” Lucy added.
“At PLEA, we continue to campaign for NHS access for all – until then, we will assist patients in accessing the most appropriate treatment for them.”
PLEA outreach director Abby Hughes commented: “Our Patient Working Group has worked together to plan and develop the resources they wish they had had access to before now – written by patients, for patients and with support from our brilliant Advisory Board.
“The Working Group shapes all that we do, with our PLEA community members having the first say in what that is. With projects already brewing around community, outreach, research and education, anyone that would like to add their voice to the mix is encouraged to join as a Community Member or to apply to our Patient Working Group – our next snapshot survey will be going out soon.”
The mobile-friendly resources are available from www.pleacommunity.org.uk/resources and are free to access.
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