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Patients and doctors highlight need for GP education on medical cannabis

The Scottish cross-party group on medicinal cannabis highlighted the importance of educating doctors

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GP prescribing medical cannabis

Patients and prescribers highlighted the need for GPs to be better educated on medical cannabis, at a meeting of the Scottish cross-party group.

The Scottish cross-party group (CPG) on medicinal cannabis, held on Wednesday 2 February, saw patients and prescribers share the importance of educating UK doctors on the treatment.

Patients representing the advocacy group PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access), said they wish GPs knew that medical cannabis was a treatment option and that it was “safer” and “more helpful” than other medications.

They also highlighted the need for awareness around how cannabis can interact with other medications, and the types of products available, including high THC oils, flowers, cartridges and tablets.

Dr Leon Barron co-founded the Primary Care Cannabis Network to improve awareness among GPs.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: “We really need to make every clinician aware that this exists in the UK. I have to admit that many GPs still don’t know a lot about cannabis and CBD treatments.”

In other countries where medical cannabis has been made legal, including Australia, Germany and Israel, the majority of prescribing is done through GPs. However in the UK, only specialists are permitted to initiate a cannabis prescription. 

In Jersey, where any doctor can prescribe, around seven per cent of practicing GPs are now prescribing cannabis, according to Dr Barron. 

Around 2,000 patients in Jersey are now receiving prescriptions, two per cent of the entire population. 

“When GPs are allowed to prescribe and they are given the tools and the support, then cannabis based medicines become much more accessible, even if they are having to be paid for privately,” he continued.

“The reasons for this are that most of the conditions that respond well to cannabis are conditions that we treat in primary care. Pain, anxiety, insomnia, even things like PTSD and neurological conditions can be managed well in general practice.”

The PCCN recently conducted a survey of 1,000 GPs, which found 39 per cent of practicing GPs support the idea of allowing specialist GPs to prescribe and 24 per cent would be willing to prescribe now if they were given the right support.

As well as improving patient outcomes and quality of life, Dr Barron believes that allowing GPs to prescribe would reduce pressures on the NHS, namely the burden being placed on secondary care doctors, and the number of conventional medicines currently being prescribed by GPs.

“If it’s framed in the right way, cannabis prescribing in primary care could help reduce referrals to secondary care and can help with the prescribing of other medicines,” he added.

“It’s not about adding to GP workload, I really think it can help to reduce GP workload and to improve patient outcomes.”

The CPG meeting was chaired by Pauline McNeill, Labour MSP, who set up the group with the SNP’s Rona Mackay in 2021.

Ms McNeill told Cannabis Health: “There is sufficient, and growing evidence, that some medicinal cannabis products have very encouraging results in treating a range of diverse conditions. 

“The pace at which these treatments are being explored is frustratingly slow in this country. I set up the Cross Party Group on Medicinal Cannabis because I believe there are treatments out there which could help people enjoy the quality of life they deserve. 

“We must be more dynamic in how we react to possible medical advances to ensure people in Scotland have access to the latest and best treatment possible.”

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@prohibitionpartners.com / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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