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Nurses are “pivotal” in the care of patients who require medical cannabis, according to the clinical director overseeing the first clinic of its kind outside London.
However, Graham Woodward believes there is a “long way to go” before nurses will be able to prescribe it.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go before nurses will be able to prescribe”
Mr Woodward, a mental health nurse by background, is the clinical director at MyAcess Clinics which received a Care Quality Commission licence for its clinic in Bristol in November last year.
The Bristol unit is now the first medical cannabis clinic to receive registration outside London and the second in the UK.
Mr Woodward told Nursing Times it was an “exciting time” for nurses to be involved in medical cannabis care.
MyAccess Clinics provides care for patients with conditions such as chronic pan, anxiety and depression who have not benefitted from other licensed medications.
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018 but is only currently available on a private prescription.
There are currently two nurses, including Mr Woodward, as well as a physiotherapist and several consultants working at the clinic.
Since the team received its license, the clinic had been inundated with phone calls and messages from patients requesting consultations, said Mr Woodward.
He explained it was the role of nurses in the clinic to respond to patient requests and ask for more information around their condition.
“Nurses like myself, we’re doing the triage, the follow-up work with the patients and giving them the guidance on how to take the medication,” Mr Woodward told Nursing Times.
“A nurse does all the initial triage and assessment work”
Under NHS guidance, only specialists registered on the General Medical Council can prescribe medical cannabis.
“A nurse does all the initial triage and assessment work and we will always stick to the specialist prescribing,” said Mr Woodward.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go before nurses will be able to prescribe medical cannabis.
“So, we’re following the guidance as it stands.”
Mr Woodward explained that with all processes of medical cannabis treatment, the clinic would “start low and go slow” when prescribing.
For example, he said a patient would start with a low Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level, but with a higher Cannabidiol (CBD) level, and would be carefully monitored before changing the dosage.
He highlighted that “a nurse is really pivotal in that, because they are doing all the follow-ups which would then be discussed in a multi-disciplinary meeting”.
He added that nurses would be at the front of his mind when recruiting for the clinic because they “understand triage”.
“Rather than having potential administrators to just do paperwork, I want people who have got that lived experience and knowledge and also understand that accountability of the safety and clinical governance that we have to abide by overall,” he added.