POLITICS
18/06/2018 16:04 BST | Updated 18/06/2018 16:06 BST

Expert Panel Set Up By Government To Advise On Use Of Medicinal Cannabis

Home Office minister 'profoundly moved' by case of Billy Caldwell.

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Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy outside the Home Office in London ahead of a meeting with Minister of State Nick Hurd, after having a supply of cannabis oil used to treat Billy's severe epilepsy confiscated on their return from Canada.

The government has announced it will establish expert clinicians’ panel to advise ministers on any individual applications to prescribe cannabis-based medications.

It comes after cannabis oil was confiscated from a mother bringing it into the UK to treat her epileptic son.

Nick Hurd, a Home Office minister, told the Commons on Monday afternoon he had been “profoundly moved” by the case of Billy Caldwell.

He said the cases “highlighted the need for the government to explore the issue further and our handling of these issues further”.

The minister told MPs he had asked chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies to take forward work on the panel.

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Earlier this morning Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he backed changing the law to allow the use of medicinal cannabis oil.

And he said the government would launch a review into the current rules.

However he appeared to be at odds with Theres May who downplayed the suggestion a review was taking place.

The prime minister also did not join her health secretary in supporting a change in the law.

“I think what needs to drive us in all of these cases is actually what clinicians are saying about these issues,” she said.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid intervened at the weekend to provide a 20-day licence allowing 12-year-old Caldwell to be treated with cannabis oil for his epilepsy.

Caldwell’s condition became “life-threatening” on Friday evening, just days after his mother, Charlotte, had a six-month supply of cannabis oils confiscated by customs officials at Heathrow Airport.

Caldwell began using the banned substance in 2016 to control his seizures. But his latest supply was confiscated as his mother attempted to bring it back from Canada.

The announcement prompted calls for an immediate decision in the case of 6-year-old Alfie Dingley, from Warwickshire, to grant him similar access to medicinal oils to treat his epilepsy.

Like Caldwell, Dingley suffers a severe form of the disease. Alfie’s condition causes him to have up to 150 seizures a month.

A Labour MP who suffered the “unbearable pain” of losing a son to epilepsy has begged ministers to give doctors power to administer medicinal cannabis. 

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, whose 16-year-old son Rory died in 2006, has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to liberalise the law “in the hope that further deaths can be avoided”. 

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said Labour would allow the legal prescription of cannabis oil for medical purposes. 

“A number of recent heart breaking cases have highlighted a failure of Government policy,” she said.

“Children have been put at risk and experienced extraordinary suffering because this Government drags its heels and refuses to grant cannabis oil licences.