Lack of Education: The Imperative for Educating UK Doctors on Cannabis Discussed by Advocates

Lack of Education: The Imperative for Educating UK Doctors on Cannabis Discussed by Advocates

The United Kingdom made a significant move last November by legalizing the use of medical cannabis and cannabis-based medicines. However, nearly a year later, patients in the UK are still struggling to access these medicines through prescription. While private medical cannabis clinics offer prescriptions for those who can afford them, most patients rely on the country’s National Health Service (NHS), which has been discouraged from prescribing medical cannabis due to limited evidence.

One of the primary challenges for patients is finding doctors within the NHS who are comfortable writing prescriptions for cannabis. According to Professor Mike Barnes, a consultant neurologist and expert on medical cannabis, there are several reasons behind this reluctance. Negative guidelines produced by the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Royal College of Physicians have created unnecessary restrictions, leading some doctors to hide behind these guidelines. Additionally, hospital approval processes can be cumbersome, and doctors may not want to take on personal responsibility for prescribing an unlicensed medicine.

To address these concerns and improve patient access to cannabis medicine, Professor Barnes believes that educating doctors about cannabis science is crucial. That’s why he helped establish the Academy of Medical Cannabis, a free online teaching program designed to fill the knowledge gap among medical professionals. The academy offers modular courses covering various aspects of cannabis science and specialized courses tailored to different medical occupations.

Supporting this effort is Sapphire Medical Clinics, a newly launched franchise model that provides educational resources and support to partner clinicians while managing its own specialist clinic in London. Dr Mikael Sodergren, the managing director and academic lead for Sapphire, explains that their goal is to reassure other doctors and provide evaluation services as a second opinion. By offering better education and support to doctors, Sapphire aims to facilitate patient access to cannabis medicines while adhering to guidelines and maintaining responsible clinical evaluation.

Both Professor Barnes and Dr Sodergren emphasize that doctors lack familiarity with cannabis as a drug due to its previous illegality. With the changing landscape and the availability of educational resources, doctors can now confidently evaluate patients and prescribe cannabis if appropriate. By bringing together experts from different specialties, such as neurology for headaches or specialists with experience from Canada, medical cannabis groups like Sapphire Medical Clinics ensure that patients are evaluated in a robust yet responsible manner.

Overall, with the combined efforts of organizations like the Academy of Medical Cannabis and Sapphire Medical Clinics, the UK medical cannabis space is gradually becoming more accessible for doctors and their patients. Educating doctors about cannabis science is key to overcoming barriers in prescribing and improving patient access to this alternative form of medicine.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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