Parents threaten legal action after struggling to get NHS prescriptions for medicinal cannabis

5 February 2020, 14:38

Mark and Leslie Gibson were taken to court for growing cannabis
Mark and Leslie Gibson were taken to court for growing cannabis. Picture: LBC News

By Tom Dunn

Families of severely epileptic children struggling to get NHS prescriptions for medicinal cannabis are threatening legal action against the NHS and NICE.

Medical cannabis was legalised on 1st November 2018, despite that, parents say they are still unable to get treatment.

On Wednesday families headed to Westminster to lobby MPs for support before handing a letter over to Boris Johnson.

Among them is Joanne Griffiths from Lancashire, her son Ben has epilepsy and she says the treatment helps with his seizures:

"It needs to be funded because we're paying in the region of £2,000 every month to keep our children well".

"We feel that the Health secretary Matt Hancock hasn't really intervened like he said he would, he looked us in the eye and said that our children's medication would be available in several months’ time on the NHS. Well we're nearly 12 months on and we still don't have the medication funded".

The Health secretary says he's working to make the drugs available, but the high prices charged by manufacturers are complicating things.

The End Our Pain campaign, which fights for access to medical cannabis under prescription want a judicial review on the matter and are meeting with MPs and Members of the House of Lords.

NHS England say they've fast-tracked access to a number of treatments, while NICE say they've got procedures in place for when cannabis therapies are suitable to be prescribed.

Today's action comes weeks after a married couple from Cumbria were taken to court after being caught growing cannabis. Mark and Leslie Gibson say they were forced into finding an alternative source, after the NHS withdrew Savitex, a cannabis based medicinal spray that she had depended on to help her multiple sclerosis for more than a decade.

In January the case was dropped and the couple walked free from Carlisle crown court.

Mark said: "You're just sitting at home minding your own business, it shouldn't be a matter of law, it should be a matter of health and no woman such as my wife with a medical condition be taken to a police cell for medicating with cannabis".

The couple say it seems access to cannabis based medication is more difficult rather despite a change in the law, Mark said: "There's so many hoops to jump through to do it. Doctors would rather it was passed over to a private practitioner and that's no good for the general public.

“Childhood epilepsy can't wait two or three months for medication. These children need it today and the need it now. To deny a sick person their medication by whatever means is tantamount to torture, it's a human rights issue, a health issue. It shouldn't be left to the police to be arresting people who are sick".

Mark added: “To find cannabis oils and speciality extracts such as THC and CBD oils, it's impossible on the black market and then to go the legal route, you're talking thousands of pounds a month, the average family just do not have that sort of money".