EducationHow to receive a medical cannabis prescription in the UK

How to receive a medical cannabis prescription in the UK

10 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

How to receive a medical cannabis prescription in the UK


Medical cannabis’ is a term used to describe any kind of cannabis-based medicine used to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition. From pain management to restoring a healthy sleep pattern, medical cannabis can be integral to alleviating some of the discomfort and issues people with chronic medical conditions face.

If you think you could be eligible for a prescription for medical cannabis in the UK, you probably have a lot of questions. Is it available on the NHS? How much does it cost? And how do I go about getting a prescription?

In this article, we’ll outline the main eligibility criteria for medical cannabis and take you through a step-by-step guide to seeking a prescription.

A brief history of medical cannabis in the UK

In November 2018, medical cannabis was first legalised in the UK. However, this is on the condition that it is prescribed by a specialist doctor – not your regular GP. Today, around 20,000 patients have a medical cannabis prescription.

Currently, cannabis is not widely available for medical purposes on the NHS, and patients typically have more luck receiving a prescription through private clinics such as Releaf.

What conditions is medical cannabis prescribed for?

The NHS has strict eligibility criteria for cannabis prescriptions. At the time of writing, the national health service only prescribes medical cannabis to:

  • Children and adults with certain forms of epilepsy
  • Adults suffering from nausea brought on by chemotherapy
  • People dealing with muscle spasms and discomfort from Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Even if you have one of these listed conditions, you will still only be prescribed cannabis if your symptoms have not been alleviated by other appropriate treatment options.

In the private sector, however, it’s another story. You can get a prescription with any of the following medical issues:

  • Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis, migraines, or fibromyalgia
  • Cancer symptoms and side effects from treatment, including anxiety, depression, loss of appetite and nausea from chemotherapy
  • Gastrointestinal issues, like IBS and Crohn’s disease.
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy
  • Mental health problems like OCD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Am I eligible for a prescription?

If you suffer from any of the above-listed conditions, you are potentially eligible for a prescription. To receive a prescription, you must visit a doctor that is on the specialist register, or reach out to a private clinic that offers online consultations.

One of these doctors will then be in a position to prescribe you medical cannabis if they feel it is in your best interest. Note, however, that you will often have to have unsuccessfully tried other more ‘conventional’ forms of treatment beforehand. To meet with a specialist doctor, you may need a referral from your GP – but this is not always the case.

Having a history of psychosis or taking other medications that are contraindicated with medical cannabis may also affect your eligibility. Your doctor will discuss this with you during your initial consultation.

How much will it cost?

The cost will depend on whether you go through the NHS, in which case consultations will be free, or if you go through the private sector. A consultation price with a private clinic can range from £50-£100.

As for the medication itself, again, costs vary. If your prescription is from an NHS doctor, you will pay a prescription charge of £9.65 unless you are receiving the medication as an inpatient in a hospital, in which case it’s free. With a private prescription, medication prices vary widely depending on the type of cannabis-based medical product you are prescribed.

While this can all add up, private prescriptions will not always be wallet-busting. Releaf offers a subscription-based, seamless, all-in-one medical cannabis solution, ensuring a safe and convenient service that puts you in control.

How to get a cannabis prescription in the UK?

You cannot get a prescription for cannabis-based medicine from most GPs. If you’re going through the NHS, you can only be prescribed by a specialist doctor. If this is an option for you, you will be referred by one of your doctors.

If you go down the private route, as is the case for most people, the process will vary slightly depending on the clinic you go to. To find out exactly what to expect, you should visit your clinic of choice’s website or contact them directly.

However, there are certain steps you will have to follow, regardless of the clinic you opt for. These steps are outlined below.

Choose a clinic

When it comes to medical cannabis, there is now a veritable smorgasbord of private clinic options to choose from here in the UK. But, keep in mind that not all clinics are created equal. When selecting a clinic, look for the following:

  • Do the doctors specialise in medical cannabis and are they on the specialist register?
  • Do they have a background in the medical field?
  • Are their prices reasonable?
  • Do they offer the added protection of a medical cannabis card?

Once you have your clinic sorted, you can proceed with the next steps.

Fill in an eligibility assessment

When you visit the clinic or reach out for an online consultation, they will ask you to fill in a free eligibility questionnaire. You will also be asked to provide a copy of your Summary Care Record, which you can obtain from your GP.

This is to gauge your medical history, and your current state of health, and determine whether a prescription for medical cannabis is suitable for you. You may be able to do this via a virtual appointment if travelling to the clinic is difficult for you.

It may feel daunting to complete an eligibility assessment, but it is unlikely that you would be turned away at this stage. If you have a history of mental health issues like psychosis or schizophrenia, then you may be denied access to medical cannabis.

Arrange a consultation

If the clinic determines you are a suitable candidate for a cannabis prescription, they will usually go ahead and book you in for a consultation with a specialist doctor. These can often be booked online or over the phone.

In your consultation, you can expect to be asked the following questions:

  • What are the symptoms of your condition, and how does it affect your daily life?
  • What other treatments and medications have you tried previously?
  • What are your expectations of medical cannabis? Why do you think it will help you?
  • Have you ever taken cannabis in the past, medically or recreationally?
  • If yes, did you experience any unpleasant side effects or issues from your use?

You should answer all questions honestly and in as much detail as you can. It’s also a good opportunity for you to ask your doctor any questions. You may want to note these down beforehand, so you’re prepared to ask everything you want to know.

At this stage, if the doctor feels you are eligible, he or she will write you a prescription. They will also discuss with you your method of administration, dosage, and how to administer it. Typically, they will start you off with a low dose and increase it over time.

Choose a pharmacy and pick up your medication

Almost all private clinics will have a preferred pharmacy they work with, so it’s likely they will provide you with a list of reputable options. Most will also offer the option of having your prescribed medication delivered directly to your door.

Keep in mind that you are not obliged to use the pharmacy connected to the clinic and you can always shop around for the best price.

Once you have chosen a pharmacy and picked up your medication, you are then free to begin using it – but keep in mind that it is important to follow all instructions provided by your doctor and take regular check-ups where necessary.

Book a follow-up consultation

The final step is to book a follow-up consultation with your doctor. This is to discuss how you’re getting on and how medical cannabis is improving your symptoms. It’s also necessary as doctors are only able to issue one prescription per month, so you need to book another consultation in order to get another prescription – if, of course, you want to continue with the medication.

At this stage, your doctor may decide to adjust the dosage or the product he or she prescribes to you.

The bottom line

If you have a rare and severe type of epilepsy, are undergoing chemotherapy or have MS, you may be able to get a prescription for medical cannabis through the NHS.

However, for most people that stand to benefit from medical cannabis, their only legal option is to pursue a prescription with a private clinic. This involves completing an initial eligibility assessment, having a consultation with a specialist doctor, and purchasing your prescribed medication.

While medical cannabis can improve the quality of life of those who take it, it should never be seen as some kind of ‘magic cure-all’. Medicinal cannabis has been shown, through many emerging clinical research studies, to offer symptomatic relief for a wide variety of medical conditions, but it should only ever be taken as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. If you do decide to pursue a prescription, it’s important that you keep your doctor informed and that you adhere to their advice.

By following the steps outlined above – including researching clinics and pharmacies carefully and having regular follow-up consultations – you can ensure that you get the most out of your medical cannabis prescription.

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.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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