How can the UK increase Medical Cannabis patient numbers?

The Way Forward for Medical Cannabis in the UK: Increasing Awareness and Patient Numbers 

The United Kingdom’s healthcare system is facing a crisis. Thousands of patients are being neglected by the NHS, left to cope with chronic pain and debilitating conditions with little to no support. Instead of receiving the treatments they desperately need, these patients are being offered superficial solutions like apps and online courses, or worse, being told to wait for months on end with no guarantee of relief. It is in this context that medical cannabis emerges as a beacon of hope—a treatment that has shown significant promise for a variety of conditions but is still largely inaccessible due to bureaucratic inertia and stigma. So, how can we increase medical cannabis patient numbers?

Increasing Awareness: The First Step 

The journey towards widespread acceptance and use of medical cannabis in the U.K. begins with awareness. Many patients and illicit-market users of cannabis for medical purposes and even healthcare providers are still uninformed or misinformed about the benefits of medical cannabis. This lack of knowledge perpetuates myths and misconceptions, preventing those in need from accessing potentially life-changing treatment. 

The medical cannabis awareness week logo, detailing that it lasts from 1-7 november
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is one of the many current campaigns for awareness in the UK. However, more initiatives are needed on a large scale.

Educational campaigns aimed at both the public and medical professionals are crucial. By disseminating accurate, research-backed information about the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis, we can begin to dismantle the barriers that prevent its widespread adoption.

Patient testimonials, clinical evidence, and expert opinions should be at the forefront of these efforts, highlighting the tangible benefits and the world evidence supporting medical cannabis use. 


The 200,000 Patient Milestone 

One of the most compelling strategies to force the NHS and government to take notice is by increasing the number of patients in the private medical cannabis market to 200,000. This critical mass of patients will serve as undeniable evidence of the demand and effectiveness of medical cannabis.

When faced with such significant numbers, the NHS and government can no longer ignore the reality that medical cannabis is a vital treatment option for many. 


By reaching this milestone, we can create a groundswell of support that will be impossible to overlook. This patient base will not only demonstrate the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis but also dramatically highlight the failure of the current system to adequately address patient needs.

Whether it’s a 14-week targets or an actual 6-9 months waitlist, UK non-emergency care ranks way below what we all should expect from Western European country. The sheer volume of patients will underscore the necessity for the NHS to integrate medical cannabis into its treatment protocols, making it more accessible and affordable for all. 

 Managing Costs and Improving Health 

A significant increase in the number of patients using medical cannabis will also help in managing costs. As the market grows, economies of scale will drive down prices, making treatment more affordable for patients. This reduction in cost is essential for ensuring that medical cannabis is not just a privilege for the few but a viable option for many. 


Moreover, with more patients receiving proper treatment, we can expect a significant improvement in the overall health of thousands of U.K. residents. Conditions that were once poorly managed or left untreated will be addressed more effectively, leading to better quality of life and reduced strain on the healthcare system.

Patients who are currently stuck on 6-9 month waitlists or not receiving any treatment options will finally have access to the care they need. 

Overcoming Resistance and Excuses 

Despite the clear benefits, we have encountered significant resistance from local NHS services. Offers to outsource waitlists to private clinics specialising in medical cannabis or to take on the most difficult cases have been met with excuses and inertia.

This resistance is unacceptable, especially when patients are suffering, and viable solutions are readily available. 

To overcome this, we must continue to advocate relentlessly for patient rights and the integration of medical cannabis into mainstream healthcare. This includes lobbying policymakers, engaging with healthcare providers, and mobilising public support.

By shining a spotlight on the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the current system, we can push for meaningful change.”

Conclusion and first steps…

The path forward for medical cannabis in the U.K. is clear. By increasing awareness, reaching a critical mass of 200,000 medical cannabis patient numbers in the private market, and continuously pushing against resistance, we can force the NHS and government to acknowledge the necessity of medical cannabis.

This will not only manage costs for patients but also significantly improve the health and wellbeing of thousands who are currently being let down by the system. It’s time to stop offering band-aid solutions and start providing real, effective treatment for those in need. The future of medical cannabis in the U.K. depends on our collective efforts to make this vision a reality. 

A simple first step would be for the NHS to encourage medical specialists to offer the option to patients who have exhausted traditional pharmaceutical options and to write private prescriptions for medical cannabis during an NHS consultation.

Alternatively, give these patients a simple referral letter so they can take control themselves.  

Pierre Van Weperen

CEO, GROW Pharma

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