Introduction Since 2018 the prescription of unlicensed cannabis-based products (CBPs) has been legal in the UK in certain indications by certain medical professionals. Despite NHS England guidance it is not generally known how often Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) are asked about CBPs, let alone where they would direct patients to if they could not answer such queries themselves. This study describes the nature of patient requests for CBPs as well as HCPs’ knowledge of CBPs and confidence in responding to such enquiries in a large teaching hospital.
Methods A bespoke 16-item survey was designed using a combination of multiple response and free text questions. The final version was reviewed by a Palliative Care Consultant and an Advanced Clinical Pharmacist. The instrument was distributed to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and allied professionals working in Oncology and Haematology in a Regional Cancer Centre over six weeks in Spring 2019. All data were anonymised. Responses were compiled and analysed using Microsoft Excel.
Results 114 completed questionnaires were returned. 49% of respondents were asked about CBPs at least monthly. Most enquiries were about both disease treatment and symptom control, especially pain (85%) and nausea (49%). 77% of HCPs agreed that it was at least somewhat a part of their role, but only 5% felt confident talking about cannabis; 94% agreed they need more support or guidance on the topic. Concerningly, 22% of all respondents, including 38% of doctors, would direct a patient to the internet for further information on medicinal cannabis.
Conclusion HCPs are asked frequently about CBPs yet they profoundly lack both knowledge and confidence when it comes to dealing with enquiries. Accordingly many patients end up being directed to the internet by HCPs for further information. There is a clear need for compulsory education and responses suggest staff would be happy to engage.
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