When we think of medicine or going to see a doctor, the first thing that comes into most of our heads is the GP or family doctor.
The idea that you have the same doctor or practice looking after your health for years provides security whereby you know someone has an idea about your health journey.
GPs and cannabis-based products for medicine (CBPM)
For patients in the UK, though, GPs do not have the authority to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicine (CBPM). The Home Office has legislated that only specialist doctors on the General Medical Register can prescribe. These doctors are the most qualified and experienced, having completed the most training.
Your NHS GP cannot prescribe medical cannabis. The reason for this is the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) will not approve the funding of medicines to be prescribed by the NHS unless they have strict clinical trials to validate their exact use.
Private or NHS GPs can refer you to a private medical cannabis clinic with specialist doctors if they believe it is in your best interest. But you don't need a referral; you can self-refer and contact the clinic directly. You'll need to fill in an eligibility check form to see if you can speak to a doctor before making an appointment.
Stepping into new ground for new health
Since 2019, the number of people in the UK population accessing private healthcare has doubled to 22% and one in eight adults has accessed some kind of private healthcare service in 2022/23.
There are benefits to seeing a specialist doctor at a private medical cannabis clinic. You're speaking to someone who is professionally trained and has experience prescribing medical cannabis products to hundreds, if not thousands, of other patients. Moreover, you will see a doctor specialising in your diagnosis.
The NHS and trainig doctors in medical cannabis
Many of the doctors in medical cannabis clinics do the majority of their work privately; they also spend time working in the NHS. Specialist doctors who are full-time in the NHS are less likely to have engaged in medical cannabis training because it has not been essential for them to learn whilst the NHS isn't prescribing medical cannabis products.
With this in mind, you should feel confident the specialist doctor you see at a cannabis clinic has your best interest in mind and has the experience necessary to care for you.
Medical cannabis clinics will be able to assess your medical records and discuss everything you want them to know. They make their notes so they can build a complete picture of your health to make sure you get the best treatment available.
Can I get medical cannabis from my GP?
No, GPs are currently unable to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicine in the UK. Only specialist doctors registered with the General Medical Council can legally prescribe, and only through a private clinic.
Will my GP be told if I get a private medical cannabis prescription?
Yes, your GP will be informed when you are prescribed medical cannabis through a private clinic as a standard duty of care.
Why can't GPs prescribe medical cannabis?
Most cannabis-based medicinal products, while no longer being legally prohibited, have still not been granted a licence for use in the UK, meaning that doctors need to apply for specialist funding any time they want to prescribe them, or request their NHS trust to fund them directly. In reality, that means it is mostly specialist private doctors that prescribe medical cannabis.
The government has said until more clinical evidence becomes available, these safety restrictions will remain in place.
Can GPs prescribe medical cannabis under shared care supervision in the UK?
Yes, once a specialist doctor has prescribed medication and is happy with your progress, a GP acting under shared care supervision can sign repeat prescriptions provided that nothing changes in the dosage or type of medication.
When will GPs be able to prescribe medical cannabis?
We would all like to know the answer to this question. Sadly, there is no way of knowing how long it will take for GPs to be able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. The Cannabis Industry Council is running a campaign, "Protect Our Patient", calling on the government to widen access to medical cannabis prescribing.
What impact will it have if GPs can prescribe medical cannabis in the UK?
Allowing GPs to prescribe will make access more affordable to patients and widen access to safe, legal medicines. There are many more GPs than specialist doctors. GPs are less expensive to hire, and more patients will have access to them so that pharmacies can import more products at a cheaper cost through the economy of scale.
What can I do to help change the law so GPs can prescribe medical cannabis?
To help participate in the campaign to speed up the Home Office allowing GPs to prescribe to patients, you can email your MP. Tell them who you are, a bit about your medical cannabis use and why you think GPs should be able to prescribe. You can send them copies of the Cannabis Industry Council's campaign documents supporting your claims.
Should I talk to my GP about medical cannabis before contacting a private medical cannabis clinic?
Your GP will not be able to give you any advice on medical cannabis, but there is no harm in talking to your GP about it if you are looking into it. You can self-refer to a private medical cannabis clinic. Hence, there is no long wait through the NHS to see one of their specialists, who is also still unable to prescribe medical cannabis.
How much training do GPs have on medical cannabis?
GPs are not trained on medical cannabis topics. Medical training still does not include very much information on the endocannabinoid system. GPs and doctors who would like to learn about medical cannabis treatments must do so personally.
What do GPs think about medical cannabis?
GP's opinions of medical cannabis will differ from person to person. Medical professionals look at the evidence, and whilst there is evidence to support medical cannabis being a potentially effective treatment for many conditions, the science that supports their ability to prescribe is still lacking. Therefore, many will want to see strong proof before they can prescribe. Many GPs take a keen interest in medical cannabis research and hope that more advancements happen so that they can one day prescribe.
When will NHS specialists be able to prescribe medical cannabis?
NHS specialist doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicine when there is strong clinical evidence to say how much THC should be used to treat a certain condition for a set or ongoing period. Whilst anecdotal evidence is abundant, the scientific literature needs to show how and why THC works for certain conditions before the NHS will allow the specialist to write prescriptions.
Will the hospital staff allow me to use a private medical cannabis prescription if I am admitted into care?
If you are admitted into hospital care, you should be able to continue using your medical cannabis prescription without an issue. You must tell the medical staff which medications you are taking, in what dose, and how often. They will most likely ask you to go outside to vape it, and if you require assistance, you should let them know so this can be arranged during your admission. Take a copy of your prescription with you. Call the Patient Support Team, who will gladly assist you.
At Releaf, we believe that access to medical cannabis is important. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.