Teenager Billy Caldwell has finally received a lifelong medicinal cannabis prescription, this is a significant shift forward by the NHS and could open the door for thousands of other patients who desperately need treatment.
Billy and Charlotte Caldwell, his mother, from Castlederg in Northern Ireland have spent years campaigning for his right to receive treatment. Speaking to local news website Belfast Live, Charlotte said,
“At the center of all of this is Billy, he’s the reason for all of this and he’s the reason I kept fighting for the miracle of medicinal cannabis.
“I have now received the news I have been waiting for, for the past two years.
“Billy’s GP called to inform me that a shared care plan has been drawn up and I attended surgery to sign to it.
“This care plan is one that will allow him to receive his prescribed cannabis-based medicine on the NHS.
“You can’t imagine how relieved I am to have received this confirmation after all these years of campaigning.
“I am incredibly grateful to the health authorities in Northern Ireland who have worked with Billy’s treating clinician and prescriber, his GP and the paediatric neurology team at Great Ormond Street Hospital to develop and approve this plan.”
In November 2018 the rules in the UK were eased in order to allow certain patients prescriptions to certain medications containing THC. This could only be prescribed by specialist doctors in very limited circumstances.
This change was preceded by the case of Billy Caldwell who was refused access to medicinal cannabis and very nearly had legal action taken against his family. The public outcry over his condition was a key factor in the decision to loosen the rule.
Unfortunately, Billy was still denied access to the newly available prescriptions through the NHS. In the two years that followed, Charlotte took legal action against the Government. Her home country of Northern Ireland blocked the “shared care agreement” that would have allowed local GPs to work with the initial prescribing doctor in England to allow Billy access to care at home.
While this was going on, Billy and his mother had to regularly fly to England to visit a specialist doctor who could prescribe him the medication he needed to prevent the nearly 100 seizures per day that Billy would suffer from if he was not being treated. Thanks to a generous offer from the Canadian company Aurora, his care was being paid for but there was no guarantee how long it would last.
Finally, after a long and difficult road Billy has access to an NHS prescription. The “shared care” plan has been agreed to and his local GP will now provide him a fully NHS funded prescription for his life saving cannabis oil.
Charlotte ended her statement by saying, “Today I am also thinking of all the people in the UK and Ireland who are still be denied access to medicinal cannabis and will commit myself to do all I can to promote access and more clinical research to enable more to benefit from the medicine that has saved Billy’s life”.
Header Image via Charlotte Caldwell