Northern Ireland

Charlotte Caldwell expresses new hope that a resolution is in sight over access to medicinal cannabis for severely epileptic son Billy

Billy Caldwell and his mother Charlotte. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Billy Caldwell and his mother Charlotte. Picture by Hugh Russell.

A WOMAN mounting a legal bid to secure access to medicinal cannabis for her severely epileptic son has expressed new hope that a resolution is in sight.

Charlotte Caldwell emerged from the High Court in Belfast yesterday encouraged by developments in the case aimed at clarifying the law around the treatment.

With her 13-year-old son Billy's current privately-sourced supply due to run out on Friday, a new report by a London-based specialist in Paediatric Neurology raised no issues over the medication.

Discussions are now expected with health officials in a bid to avoid further court hearings.

Mrs Caldwell said: "I'm heartened, I think we are closer to a resolution and I feel confident that we are nearly there."

The Co Tyrone woman has been seeking judicial confirmation that a GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis to her son.

In November last year the rules were relaxed to allow some cannabis-derived medicines to be prescribed to patients in the UK by specialist doctors in limited circumstances.

It followed the high-profile case of Billy Caldwell and his mother, who had cannabis oil brought back from Canada confiscated at London's Heathrow Airport.

The boy was then admitted to hospital after suffering seizures.

Despite the new guidelines, access to medication remains uncertain.

Mrs Caldwell is taking a case against the Health and Social Care Board over an alleged failure to take a decision on a Canadian-sourced treatment.

She wants a declaration that a Northern Ireland-based GP or clinician can lawfully write prescriptions for cannabis-based medication under the direction of a consultant paediatrician with higher qualifications in epilepsy diagnosis and management.

A Professor in Paediatric Neurology at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London who backed the medication's use for Billy carried out a fresh assessment last Friday and delivered her up-to-date report.

A judge was also told draft guidance is to go before a UK Health Minister.