Cannabis is to be prescribed legally from a new private clinic in Aberdeen – the first in Scotland to do so.
London-based Sapphire Medical Clinic is to set up a practice within Blackberry Clinic on Scotstown Road, Bridge of Don, within weeks.
Patients with conditions such as chronic pain and MS would be able to get a prescription from their GP and go to Sapphire to get cannabis in the form of oil, gel or flowers.
The company’s managing director Mikael Sodergren said 20% of all patients referred to the clinic are turned away, while the remainder are only seen if other treatments have failed for them.
Of the patients that are seen, 70% receive cannabis from Sapphire. Decisions are made by a team of up to seven doctors.
Four doctors will work for Sapphire at the Bridge of Don base.
NHS Grampian have expressed concern about the impact it will have on GPs’ time, though Dr Sodergren said the practice would help the NHS.
An NHS Grampian spokesman said: “It is concerning this private clinic operates on the mechanism of GP referrals, given the treatments used in the clinic would not be available nor recognised by the NHS.
“There is the risk of significant GP time being utilised to provide clients access to this private healthcare.
“Any patient using private healthcare should be under no presumption that any medicines prescribed could or should be continued on the NHS.”
Dr Sodergren said: “We believe that, far from adding work to GPs, our work will take pressure off them as people will be able to seek advice from us rather than from the NHS.
“If you take chronic pain patients, for example, cannabis is proven to work as a treatment. We can give it to patients but the NHS cannot, so we are helping those patients and freeing up NHS resources.
“We are in talks with the relevant regulatory bodies and, providing everything goes to plan, we should be open within a few weeks.
“We have already got people on a waiting list to visit the clinic, but all referrals must come from a GP.”
He added: “This is a partnership with the Blackberry Clinic group and there is no association with BUPA.”