FAMILIES 4 ACCESS: PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE
August 13, 2018
Families 4 Access was established to draw public and political attention to the plight of parents of sick children who could benefit from access to medicinal cannabis. Our aim has been strictly policy oriented, this has been and is our primary objective.
We launched the campaign both aware that there was overwhelming public support for reform but little political momentum for enacting it. Our strategic objective has very deliberately been to facilitate a public debate on the issue which would leave politicians with no choice but to respond positively. The intent from the outset was achieve our aspiration for all families who needed it. By supporting Charlotte Caldwell's trip to Canada and the campaign that flowed from it we were able to create unprecedented media coverage for the issue.
On June 11th, the day we launched Families 4 Access, there were a dozen MPs publicly supporting access to medicinal cannabis, and the Home Office were adamant that there was no alternative to an opaque process to apply for a license. When we met with the Home Office Minister, Nick Hurd MP, and five of his officials, none of them could tell how long this process would take, how much it would cost, or indeed if any such application had ever previously been successful.
Within seven days since that meeting everything had changed. The Home Secretary announced a review of medicinal cannabis, and Nick Hurd, who was saying only days before that nothing could be done, informed the House of Commons that he would convene an emergency panel to consider emergency cases. Both these interventions were a direct response to our campaign.
We celebrated each of those milestones as those were significant steps in a policy arena that was stale and static for fifty years. It signalled that a major change was now imminent.
However, very quickly it became clear that the emergency panel process was sclerotic. We used direct feedback from families to write to the Home Secretary, the new Health and Social Care Secretary and, finally, Dr Michael McBride - the chair of the expert panel, expressing our concern that the process was simply not working.
Within 48 hours of our open letter to Dr. McBride, calling for him to account for the manifold failures of his panel, the Home Secretary announced that specialist doctors in the UK will be able to legally prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products by autumn.
It is possible to both recognise this as vital progress but also to acknowledge that to date almost nobody has benefited from any of these well-meaning changes. We know how distressing this is for so many people who are reading about these announcements on our website and elsewhere but find they can make no progress with their clinicians.
Our assessment of the future is that these changes can only properly benefit children and parents when doctors have clear clinical guidelines to follow, have access to training, and when the government license cannabis derived medicines for export to the UK.
We are currently doing all we can to help shape how this policy is put in place so that it works for the families we established this campaign to help.
We will draw on international expertise and are engaging with people who have considerable experience of how medicine regulations work. Our resources as such that this is, we feel, the best way for us to advance access to medicinal cannabis.
In the coming days we will share more details about our plans.
For the many people in need, we appreciate, these must be incredibly frustrating days. The only way we can resolve this is to be absolutely focused on the whole process and how it works.
Our small team is focused on prioritising to push positive policy change into action. We acknowledge that we are met with appropriate questions of uncertainty and cordially invite any concerns to be addressed to our team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, as social media is primarily used to publish updates rather than discuss individual cases. Please do contact us to discuss your experience with the applications. The more anecdotal your feedback on your experiences, the more we are able to collate our data and use it within our direct communications with those in charge of change.
Families 4 Access Team