How the NHS is approaching medical cannabis prescriptions

Medical cannabis prescriptions are becoming more and more in demand due to the benefits they provide. However, with many countries being unclear on their legality of medical cannabis it can be confusing knowing where the NHS stands. 

Medical Cannabis Prescriptions

Currently, in the United Kingdom, medical cannabis is legal but only when prescribed by a professional doctor. Due to its unlicensed nature, prescribing medical cannabis in the UK is restricted to only those on the Specialist Register of General Medical Council.

The NHS made the decision that all medical cannabis prescriptions must comply with relevant General Medical Council (GMC) guidance. The term ‘unlicensed’ refers to medicines that are used outside of the terms of the UK license. All unlicensed medicines are usually only used in cases of psychiatry or paediatric care.

However, unlicensed products such as medical cannabis may be used when:

  • There are no suitable licensed medicines available to meet patient’s needs.
  • The recommended dosage for a certain licensed medicine would not be enough for a patient’s needs. 
  • There is no licensed medicine suitable for the particular patient. For example, if a patient is a child but there is only medicine suitable for an adult available. 

When a member of the Specialist Register of General Medical Council is prescribing medical cannabis they must:

  • Ensure there is sufficient evidence that using the unlicensed medicine will work with safety. 
  • Take responsibility for all future care of the patient, monitoring all follow-up treatment.
  • Make clear records of all medical cannabis prescribed to patient and reasons for prescribing it. 


Why is prescribing medical cannabis restricted

A General Medical Council Register should only prescribe medical cannabis within their own practice. The decision should also be taken to and agreed by a multidisciplinary team. A GP is allowed to make a referral for a patient to a specialised doctor. This can only be done when a patient reaches the appropriate time in their treatment. For example, a patient could not be referred on their first appointment. 

It is the law that the process is carried out this way and under a GMC register. It is important that only clinical experts with a sufficient amount of expertise carry out these prescriptions. This is because they are able to make decisions based on the research and evidence they know. 

When can medical cannabis be prescribed?

Every country across the globe have different laws and regulations about why and when medical cannabis can be prescribed. In the UK, the NHS will only allow a GMC register prescribe medical cannabis to treat certain illnesses.

Medical cannabis prescriptions are only considered for patients with rare and severe cases of epilepsy and chemotherapy patients. Medical cannabis would also be contemplated if other treatments weren’t suitable for the patient.

Going forward

In the future, the NHS and the UK may change their current policies on medical cannabis prescriptions. Due to use cases appearing about the plant aiding and even stopping certain illnesses, residents of the UK are raising their hopes for cannabis medicines. 

For all the latest news about the regulation of medical cannabis, make sure you keep up to date with The Leaf Desk.