A health board has raised concerns about a medical cannabis firm’s plans to open Scotland’s first private clinic offering the drug.
Sapphire Medical Clinics wants to open premises in Aberdeen, prescribing medical cannabis to patients referred by GPs.
But NHS Grampian said that would risk GP time being used to give patients access to private healthcare for treatments unavailable on the NHS.
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in 2018, enabling doctors to prescribe it in certain situations.
In Scotland, the treatment is only available on the NHS for complex intractable epilepsy or vomiting due to chemotherapy.
In a statement, the private healthcare firm said: “Sapphire Medical Clinic is set to be the first clinic with specialist expertise in prescribing medical cannabis to open in Scotland.
“The Aberdeen-based clinic will prescribe medical cannabis for all conditions acknowledged to benefit from the treatment.”
The company currently runs a clinic in London and offers treatment to patients with a range of conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease.
A spokeswoman added: “What we are offering is an expert second opinion for GPs that are caught in a terrible position where they know their patients could benefit from a treatment but are unable to prescribe it themselves.
“Many of these patients will have been suffering from conditions like chronic pain for many years.
“Our clinicians are all NHS consultants who are experts in their fields and will only see patients who they would see in their practice in the NHS.”
The company’s managing director Dr Mikael Sodergren added: “We are proud to be opening the first clinic in Scotland and have already seen first-hand how medical cannabis is transforming lives.”
But NHS Grampian said in a statement that NHS access to medicinal cannabis products in Scotland is “restricted to conditions where there is evidence of benefit or accepted UK guidelines for use”.
It continues: “It is concerning that 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.
“There is clear NHS Grampian guidance for prescribing following a private consultation. Any patient using private healthcare should be under no presumption that any medicines prescribed could or should be continued on the NHS.”
Sapphire Medical Clinics said it is seeking registration with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS).
An HIS spokeswoman said any independent healthcare service would be “operating illegally” if they began consultations or procedures without HIS approval.
She added: “Sapphire Medical Clinics have notified us of their intent to register but we have not yet received their application to register.”