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Independents' Day

GPs to monitor mental health of all patients who own guns

GPs are required from this month to keep a record of all patients who own a gun – and to inform police if any of these people develop mental health problems such as depression.

Practices are to place a ‘firearm reminder’ code in their records to act as an alert if the health of gun owners deteriorates.

Police will contact the GPs of all people who apply for a firearm certificate, to check whether there is a history of illnesses including depression or dementia.

Until now police have only contacted an individual’s GP before the issue of a firearm certificate if an applicant has declared a relevant medical condition.

The new referral system was drawn up by a partnership that included the police, the RCGP, the BMA and shooting associations. Guidance for GPs is being prepared, but police will have the final say on who is issued a firearm’s certificate.

Police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary previously recommended that GPs should provide medical reports for patients applying for firearm licences.

GPC member Dr John Canning said: ’We support measures to ensure closer working between the medical profession and police. Under current legislation doctors already have a responsibility to breach confidentiality if they think a patient presents a risk of serious harm to themselves or others.

’A system whereby patients’ medical records are noted as to indicate whether they hold a firearms or shotgun licence could act as a useful reminder to doctors that the patient has, or may have, access to a firearm.

’Doctors are never in a position to make assessments of future risks presented by firearms holders. The routine assessment of risk in relation to individuals who hold, or who wish to hold firearms is solely a matter for the police.’

Readers' comments (45)

  • So, GPs are supposed to do this as of now but 'the guidance is being prepared'. GPs are great but they're not psychic. More unfunded work being dumped on primary care. All firearms should be banned, then no one would need to monitor mental health of these people. No one in UK in 2016 needs to own a gun!

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  • So if car drivers are stressed out driving cars then cars should be banned.
    Cars are lethal weapons and every year there are approximately fifty times more deaths on the road than there are firearms murders.
    So should anyone who owns a car who develops depression also be monitered and referred to the government by gps?

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  • Not my job, I presume this is an april fool joke?

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  • never mind being set up to fail - GPs are now ideally placed - to carry the can for the next shooting spree

    THIS is insane

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  • I think the replies show a fair bit of misuderstanding. Lots of people own guns and take part in perfectly legal, very enjoyable sport of target shooting - myself included. It is an olympic sport you know - do you want to ban it worldwide now ? Some of us even own some land and need to get rid of vermin with them. Gun ownership is decided by a very rigorous interview and scrutiny, you don't just fill in a form and get it. It used to be that the GP had to fill out a tedious report, funded by patient. Now you just have to flag records and tell Firearms police if you are worried. They will then request a report - and you can charge either them or the patient. If you have it flagged on the persons notes then you know they own a gun and to discuss it.
    How is this different from telling the DVLA that a person you feel is unfit to drive is still driving ?

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  • Does the GP waive patient's confidentiality?

    Would this breach of GMC rules- the guidance here is not comprehensive.

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  • "How is this different from telling the DVLA that a person you feel is unfit to drive is still driving "

    Because a) we have a statutory duty to inform the DVLA and waive confidentiality and b) most people continue to drive when unfit because they lack insight/competence (although their actions have the potential to cause carnage)

    whereas someone with a gun, with or without mental health problems, may suddenly decide to go out deliberately to kill - and the notes will be mercilessly trawled for anything that could be interpreted retrospectivly as "warning signs" so the GP can be hung out to dry.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    What's the deal here? Are we saying no one with depression, however well-controlled, can own a gun? Sounds very discriminatory to me.

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  • Hang on, if a GP says no, who offers protection to the GP? And we pay our royal college to not say anything about this nonsense?

    So if there is an issue, will the "mental health team" see them urgently? I don't think so.

    So much for the contract and independent contractor status.

    Bargepole indeed

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  • I find the comment of an anonymous (cowardly) GP partner @ 5.08pm deeply offensive &, as he/she is ALSO a patient then I assume he/she includes him/herself !!!

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