Scotland’s first medical cannabis clinic, which was initially slated for Aberdeen, has welcomed more than 500 patients in its first week.
The Sapphire Medical facility in Stirling has been carrying out virtual consultations following approval from Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
It first announced plans for the clinic in February 2020, with an eye on the north-east, but switched to a location closer to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
At the time, NHS Grampian chiefs raised concerns the medical cannabis clinic would lead to GPs’ time being used to funnel patients into private healthcare.
But bosses said the new clinic will allow people “legal, safe and medically-sound” access to items they may otherwise have been buying illegally.
Medical cannabis was made legal across the UK in November 2018, but only when used to treat a limited number of specific conditions.
Based at One Allan Park Wellbeing Clinic in Stirling, it is currently offering remote consultations, including more than 500 in its first week of operation.
Stirling MP Alyn Smith said: “I am delighted to welcome Sapphire Medical Clinics to Scotland as the first and only registered clinic to prescribe medical cannabis.
“The Stirling-based clinic, which is accessible from the surrounding areas, provides patients who suffer from conditions, such as chronic pain and anxiety, the opportunity to access this treatment.
“Growing the evidence base is vital to further improve patient access to medical cannabis and having met the team at Sapphire, I am pleased to see that Scottish patients will now be contributing to their comprehensive national registry database.
“I am confident that together we can bring about greater access to medical cannabis and really change lives.”
Need for ‘further education’
Earlier this year Sapphire Medical commissioned polling via YouGov to gauge public opinion regarding CBD, or cannabidiol, a substance within cannabis with medical benefits.
It said 9% of Scots were taking over-the-counter or prescription CBD products, while almost one-quarter said they are unsure if it is even legal.
Dr Mikael Sodergren, Sapphire Medical’s managing director and academic lead, said: “The statistics clearly highlight the need for further education around medical cannabis, illustrated by the fact that almost a quarter of the population are still unaware that it is legal.
“To bridge this education chasm, Sapphire Medical established the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, which is a comprehensive, prospective registry designed to collate outcomes of medical cannabis therapy.
“The aim of the registry is to expand our understanding of medical cannabis as a treatment in the UK, by collecting and analysing clinical data, and I am thrilled that Scottish patients will be contributing to the advancement of this.”
‘Concerning’ use of GP time
Initial appointments at Sapphire Medical cost £100, with follow-ups and quarterly check-ups billed at £50 and £45 each, respectively.
Last year NHS Grampian said there was a risk of “significant” GP time being used referring patients to the medical cannabis clinic for treatments not available or recognised on the NHS.
A spokeswoman said: “There is clear NHS Grampian guidance for prescribing following a private consultation.
“Any patient using private healthcare should be under no presumption that any medicines prescribed could or should be continued on the NHS.
“This would only occur where it is appropriate and available for NHS usage.”