The UK’s first national charity that will provide financial support to patients on modest means wishing to access medical cannabis is to be launched by the team behind Sapphire Medical Clinics, the first UK clinic offering medical cannabis as part of a comprehensive treatment pathway to be approved by the CQC. The Sapphire Medical Charity will be established as a separate entity. It will provide grants to patients who have a verified clinical need for medical cannabis but have financial limitations. The formal application to be registered as a charity is currently underway.

The prospective trustees are set to include England rugby star George Kruis, Conservative grandee Sir Mike Penning, and co-founder of Families4Access and CPASS Basia Zieniewicz.

Sir Mike Penning said, ‘I was delighted to play a role in achieving the law change of November last year which saw cannabis re-scheduled allowing it to be prescribed by specialist doctors. But one year on, the number of patients actually getting access is pitifully small. Private clinics are playing their part in widening access, but it’s essential that everything is done to make sure people on more modest incomes can get access. That’s why I am delighted to be a prospective trustee of this new charity. It is heart breaking to meet the patients and their families who are in such desperate need of this medicine but who are having to either go without, struggle to raise enormous sums of money to pay privately or break the law to achieve access. I know that the public continue to be moved by the distressing cases that feature regularly in the media of patients and their carers being denied access to medical cannabis and having to raise thousands of pounds to fund it privately whilst still having to cope with the condition itself’.

George Kruis said, ‘I know from my own personal experience with solely CBD products just how beneficial medical cannabis can be. This is a rapidly developing field of medicine and I’m delighted to be part of this ground breaking foundation. I know that medical cannabis works and it’s really important that financial barriers are reduced as much as possible to allow suitable patients to access it.

“I fully believe that mainstream medical cannabis should be available for athletes. I personally believe it is a substance that is not performance enhancing and carries many benefits such as providing a natural method for pain relief”

Mahmood El Youssef, the father of Said el Youssef will apply for the grant when applications open said, ‘I cannot explain what is going on in my family. No one can sleep and everybody is screaming in pain watching our beautiful son deteriorate. He used to be able to say mummy and daddy but he has lost the ability to talk and walk now. We cannot put into words how grateful we are that Sapphire Medical Foundation might be able to help us. My wife and children are so happy we don’t have the words to say except thank you. We just want our hearts to stop hurting and give our son the best, most normal life possible’.

Lorna Bland, a medical cannabis patient said: ‘Medical cannabis has been life changing for me, and I’m very fortunate to be able to afford it. However, many can’t, so I welcome the plans to set up this new charity to support patients in need, and wish it well’

Prospective trustee Dr Simon Erridge, Sapphire team member and academic physician based at Imperial College London, explained, ‘Our core values are compassion and fairness. That’s why we want to help reduce the financial barriers associated with prescriptions of Cannabis-Based Medicinal Products (CBMP)s. The charity will fund treatment for patients who may benefit from medical cannabis. Grant applications will go through a means assessment and clinical need triage to shortlist potential grant recipients. Eligibility will be confirmed at no cost to those shortlisted through a robust clinical assessment in accordance with NHS England, MHRA and GMC guidelines’.

Dr Mikael Sodergren, MD and academic lead of Sapphire Medical Clinics said, ‘Forming this charity is a first. Medical cannabis has the potential to transform patients’ lives. There is enormous pent up patient demand across a whole range of conditions including childhood epilepsy syndromes and chronic pain. But the medical establishment is taking time to adapt to this new treatment option and access via the NHS is extremely tight. At Sapphire Medical Clinics we’re leading the way in bringing access to medical cannabis to the patients who need it. However, we recognise that cost will be an issue for many people on constrained incomes. We believe it is the right thing to reduce the financial barriers associated with cannabis-based medicinal products. That is why Sapphire Medical Clinics will be a partner with Sapphire Medical Charity, despite it acting as a separate entity. Sapphire Medical Clinics will itself provide financial support to the charity to aid running costs. This will allow a higher proportion of any donations received to directly support patients themselves rather than to support overheads.’