Billy Caldwell ‘exiled’ in Canada by NHS refusal to prescribe cannabis medicine

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Charlotte Caldwell has been forced to take her son Billy to Canada to seek medication after doctors cited strict NHS guidance to say they could not prescribe cannabis unless there was clinical evidence it would benefit his epilepsy.

Charlotte said she had been informed by her son’s medical team they could not support his new cannabis prescription because the new guidelines said there was not enough clinical data to justify its use with children suffering from epilepsy and autism.

As a result, Charlotte and Billy, 13, from Castlederg in Northern Ireland, travelled to Calgary in Canada to seek medication.

Charlotte told the Telegraph: “We are exiled from our home, isolated once again from your family and friends. With Christmas just around the corner, we desperately want to be at home with our family. I’m just devastated.”

It was the efforts of the Caldwells last summer, when Billy ended up in hospital with epileptic seizures after his cannabis oil treatments were confiscated by customs officers, which triggered action from Sajid Javid – or at least, pressed him into being seen to be doing something. But his law change has only served to infuriate patients who have been fobbed off.

On Wednesday this week, Carly Barton, the first person in Britain to be privately prescribed medicinal cannabis, had an appointment at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals cancelled after being told that cannabis medicine “was not a service we currently provide”.

“I am going to have no support for my condition on the basis that they are really against medical cannabis and don’t want to talk about it,” said Carly. She was referred by her GP to an NHS consultant so she could be prescribed medicinal cannabis on the NHS for the constant pain she suffers from fibromyalgia rather than having to pay £800 a month.

The Royal College of Physicians said: “The public would expect us to only make recommendations based on quality evidence and at the moment there isn’t any. We would welcome high-quality studies into the use of cannabis-based medicinal products for pain treatment.”

Sir Mike Penning, co-chair of the all-party group on medicinal cannabis, accused a “bloody-minded” medical profession of obstructing a legal change that could help thousands of patients.

“They keep coming up with every excuse in the book. They say there’s no evidence it treats pain but the chief medical officer said there was ‘conclusive evidence’ it was beneficial for conditions,” he said. “Doctors should be looking after their patients rather than coming up with bureaucratic measures to block it. Morally it’s wrong.”

Is Javid going to stay silent?

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