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Northern Ireland news

Charlotte Caldwell wants permission to treat her epileptic son Billy at home

Charlotte Caldwell speaking at a press conference after arriving in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Matt Bohill
Rebecca Black

THE mother of a 12-year-old boy from Co Tyrone who has been prescribed medicinal cannabis has pleaded with the Department of Health to let her treat her son at home.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy returned home yesterday after three weeks in London where he had been receiving treatment at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Billy, who has a rare form of epilepsy, has been granted a short-term licence by the Home Office to allow him access to cannabis oil.

His mother Charlotte says the medication helps to control his seizures.

But Ms Caldwell said her son, who is also autistic, has been traumatised by the experience of being away from home and familiar surroundings for so long.

The Department of Health has been granted a licence for the medicine but Billy must receive his two doses a day at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, which is a two-hour drive from the Caldwell home in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

Speaking shortly after their arrival back in Northern Ireland, Ms Caldwell said: "Billy's meds have been delivered to the Belfast Trust, but its arrival there is far from a victory for Billy or common sense.

"Billy has effectively been placed under hospital arrest. Over the course of the last three weeks, Billy has had exemplary treatment from doctors at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

"Billy had his last dose of medicinal cannabis from Dr Alexander who has urged the Home Office and Northern Ireland Department of Health to let Billy go home. The Home Office has endorsed this recommendation."

The UK government announced on Tuesday that a decision on whether to change laws on medicinal cannabis will be made in the next few weeks.

Ms Caldwell said she was calling on "everyone responsible to consider all options available".

"The contrast between the speed and compassion shown by the Home Secretary and health professionals in London and the silence and inaction of the health authorities in Northern Ireland is deeply troubling," she said.

"I am asking those responsible here in Belfast to endorse the recommendation of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, act on the recommendation of the Home Office.

"There are practical ways that this can happen. Perhaps by a district nurse administering Billy's medicinal cannabis in the comfort of his own home."

Ms Caldwell added: "The alternative is to enact a policy that amounts to nothing less than child abuse and child cruelty at the highest level against my little boy."

Billy was due to get his second dose at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast last night.

Ms Caldwell vowed to keep fighting for her son.

"We have been told by the Belfast Trust that Billy can only be administered his anti-epileptic medication by doctors in the hospital," she said.

"Billy needs his medicine twice a day, 10am and 8pm. It takes a few seconds to administer.

"I, as Billy's mummy know far more about administering his meds than any hospital."

Ms Caldwell said that, as it stands, she is forced with either moving to Belfast or making daily trips from Castlederg.

"It's utterly crazy that Billy is being subjected to this. He is autistic, he hasn't got a voice. He needs the familiar surroundings of his own home, his own bed, his own toys and his own garden. We have to go home," she said.

"But we have gone into battle twice before and we have won, we are ready for the next round.

"I am not ever going to give up on my little boy."

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