Representing a vital step forward for those living with a range of chronic and debilitating conditions, today marks the launch of the medical team behind the UK’s first medical cannabis clinic.
The UK’s first specialist standalone medical cannabis clinic is set to open imminently following final assessment by the Care Quality Commission on Harley Street in London, UK. World-leading experts in neurology, stroke and psychiatry will form the expert medical team and will be the second in a network of pioneering specialist clinics being opened in major UK cities this year by ECH Medical, and the first such facility in London.
The access of medical cannabis in the UK
Despite the change in law, only a handful of patients have successfully accessed medical cannabis treatment via the NHS, meaning this new clinic will act as a lifeline to those who have thus far struggled to access this treatment.
It follows the launch of the group’s first clinic in Manchester in March 2019, which was also the first in the UK. The London clinic will be a standalone facility, treating patients living with a range of chronic and debilitating conditions, including chronic pain, neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Ahead of opening, the London clinic has already experienced unprecedented demand, with over 150 patients already on the waiting list. The announcement of the clinical team and its location has today been welcomed as a promising step forward towards improved access for patients across the UK.
“This clinic will be a lifeline for people like me”
Forzana Nasir, 32, an Open University student from south London who suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, commented: “This clinic will be a lifeline for people like me. Before I had access to medical cannabis, I was almost bedbound.
“I was prescribed 13 different medications to help manage my condition, but the side effects were excruciating. In some cases, they mimicked the symptoms they were supposed to treat. But now, my quality of life is improving daily and what was once intolerable is now bearable.”
A team of world-leading experts
The clinic, based on Harley Street, will be led by leading UK specialists including Professor Mike Barnes, consultant neurologist and rehabilitation physician, Dr Elizabeth Iveson, consultant specialist in complex care and neurorehabilitation, stroke and elderly medicine, Dr Elie Okirie, Clinical Director in neurological and specialist rehabilitation at the Central England Rehabilitation Unit, Dr Attam Singh, consultant in pain medicine and Clinical Associate of the London Pain Clinic, and Dr Rebecca Moore, a consultant psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.
The team of consultants will be supported by GP Leon Barron, who will assess patients who are open to exploring medical cannabis treatments for conditions which are not responding to conventional treatments.
Despite the rescheduling of medical cannabis in November 2018, only a handful of patients have successfully accessed treatment via the NHS, meaning this clinic will act as a lifeline to those who have thus far struggled to access this treatment.
The opening of a second clinic in the south of England will also expand access to a greater number of patients around the country. A third clinic is due to open in Birmingham later this year, with additional clinics scheduled to be open across the country by the end of the year.
There are still barriers to access
Despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP expressing his ‘immense frustration’ that patients still cannot access medical cannabis, multiple barriers to access on the NHS remain in place, including establishing exceptional clinical circumstances, exhausting all lawful alternatives, gaining agreement from an NHS Trust Medical Director, and engaging a specialist doctor to accept liability.
These obstacles have so far made it highly unlikely for patients to be able to access this treatment via the NHS. This new service will offer a framework under which patients can access the medication they need and alleviate avoidable suffering.
The London team will specialise in innovative cannabis-based therapy, with the clinic open to patients who have exhausted all existing treatment options, and where medical cannabis has been proven to deliver significant therapeutic benefit, following self-referral or specialist referral.
Operating across multiple disciplines, including neurology, chronic pain and psychiatry, the clinic will provide potentially life-changing relief from chronic pain conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve conditions, muscle cramps (spasticity); treating neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; and addressing psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A lifeline to the thousands suffering
Clinical Director of The Medical Cannabis Clinic, London, Professor Mike Barnes, commented: “Patients suffering from chronic pain, serious neurological or psychiatric conditions have been crying out for this kind of life-changing treatment.
“This clinic will represent a lifeline to the thousands of patients in the UK who have found other treatments ineffective. The hope is that over time patients all around the country and not just in London and Manchester will have access to the relief that they need.”
Professor Barnes helped pave the way for the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK and made history in March 2018 when he obtained the first permanent medical license for Alfie Dingley, who suffered up to 500 life-threatening seizures a month as a result of his severe epilepsy.
Following successful treatment with cannabis oil, Alfie has had only one hospital admission in a year, his seizures are controlled, and he can now live a more normal life. Although around 500,000 people in the UK have epilepsy, not one more person has been prescribed the treatment on the NHS since this case.
Commenting on the new clinic, Hannah Deacon, the mother of Alfie Dingley and a tireless campaigner for access to medical cannabis in the UK, said: “Families were delighted when the law changed last year – they thought their battle was over. But the reality is that they are still suffering terribly because they still struggle to access the medical cannabis that could help them like it has helped Alfie.
“That’s why I’m delighted that this team at ‘The Medical Cannabis Clinics – London’ will provide real hope to those in real need – and their families – by giving them access to the treatment they rightfully deserve.”
Building on the historical milestone
Dr Elizabeth Iveson, consultant specialist in complex care and neurorehabilitation, stroke and elderly medicine, added: “I have seen first-hand how transformative cannabis has been for my patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain and stroke. No-one should have to suffer when we have the medical means to safely treat them. But too often, I hear from those who need it most that they simply can’t get access. That is why I am proud to be part of a team that is committed to ensuring patients are able to get the treatment they desperately need.”
ECH Medical, which set up The Medical Cannabis Clinics, is the group which earlier this year created a historic milestone by facilitating the import of the UK’s first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicine since the Home Office decision. In addition to launching a network of specialist medical cannabis clinics and importing this shipment of cannabis-based medicine to the UK, ECH Medical continues to support patients in need by improving access to medical cannabis by providing key infrastructure and educational services. These landmark moments for the UK’s fledgling medical cannabis industry will greatly improve access for patients.
Richard North, Managing Director of The Medical Cannabis Clinics, commented: “We are delighted to be supporting the establishment of The Medical Cannabis Clinic in London. The legalisation of prescription cannabis has given people with chronic illnesses hope; the next step is for the Government and health authorities to ensure the availability of medical cannabis to offer those without other alternatives the treatment they need.”
More about the medical cannabis clinics
The Medical Cannabis Clinics specialise in innovative cannabis-based medical therapies, helping to meet the unmet medical needs of people living with a range of chronic and debilitating conditions.
- The Times, Jorja Emerson, the first child prescribed cannabis, still can’t get access on the NHS, 9 December 2018. Available from: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jorja-emerson-the-first-child-prescribed-cannabis-still-cant-get-access-on-the-nhs-hnrwksrwq
- Parliament. House of Commons. Cannabis: Medical Treatments:Written question – 251365, 13 May 2019. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-07/251365/
- Hansard, Access to Medical Cannabis, 8 April 2019. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-04-08/debates/AFF73549-D16F-40D6-9BE2-4FD68DFF7054/AccessToMedicalCannabis?highlight=medicine#contribution-9D783256-CAB5-4683-99A1-0AEFEFE24E87
- The Mirror, Kids forced to leave the UK to survive as 25,000 still denied cannabis ‘cure’, 17 March 2019, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kids-forced-leave-uk-survive-14150885