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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)

  • Sorry ! It was the sessional GP locum on Apr 1st @ 5.21pm whose comment I found offensive !

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  • Is it possible the scientific basis is being missed here?
    The major risk factor re depression in non gun owners as well as gun owners, and associated suicidality and violence, (on occasion, indisputably homicide) is the akathisia induced by SSRI's in those vulnerable to developing akathisia. The duties of a prescribing physician are to alert the depressed patient to the most serious ADR's produced by these drugs. Those most likely to be at greatest risk of akathisia are have cytochrome CYP 450 genomic variants predisposing to slow metabolism or more complex variation from normal metabolism. It may well be far more acceptable, ethical and appropriate to advise those seeking a gun licence to undergo CYP 450 genomic sequencing, at least for CYP 2C9, CYP 2C19 and CYP 2D6, Other alleles may be required. This means that should the fastidiously careful gun owner be unfortunate enough (on a bad day) to fill in a HAM D scale "identifying" depression - and to be given an SSRI, the risk of free serotonin in the brain exceeding 80% increase may be anticipated. The prevention of serotonin toxicity and akathisia is an evidence based means of preventing suicide and violence. Safer still, never prescribe SSRI's if not absolutely confident in the diagnosis and safe management of akathisia, and ideally, only prescibe to normal metabolisers.

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  • Dear All,
    I was part of the team that negotiated this with the Home Office. There is a need to protect the public and individuals from weapons. The existing system was not working. it is not unreasonable nor contrary to professional behaviour to contribute to a decision whether or not someone should posses a firearm. there was no new money on the table. so we negotiated what we thoght was the best we could in teh circumstances. Points to note; the gp does not have to respond. for most patients that you know the initial response can be made from a memory sweep and is a simple tick box and send back - maybe 2 minutes. entering the read code is 10 seconds at most. the systems will be modified to automatically flag the code thereafter. the applicant has given consent by default and in any event GMC would expect you to divulge relevant info on public interest basis. if a formal report is requested it is made as plain as day that the applicant pays what you charge. finally despite your input its not you who decides.
    Not ideal but as i said best we could make of it.
    Yes if patients want to lie then they will and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Paul C
    D.O.I past firearms and shotgun licence holder and currently renewing.

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  • This isn't my job. It's not down to me to monitor who is fit to hold a firearms license. What do they mean by 'monitor'. Happy to provide information for a fee. the police should monitor this

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  • If there is no new money, no new work. Are we a charity ? Do barristers work for free? Have we any value at all?
    Just do not become a GP, when you have this stuff from a GPC member.
    No new money, but lots of new work.
    I hope all the GPs leave this cesspit.
    There never is any new money. So we now do almost 90% on 7% of the budget.

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  • It is the mismatch of increased responsibility with no money attached that is making us angry and worried.

    You want my practice staff to do searches and maintain registers and then write to the police. That is time and therefore money. It will not in my opinion be a few seconds here and there.

    When things go wrong we risk getting sued. If you want me to shoulder that risk then I will tell you how much I charge for that. If you dont like my prices then you pay someone else to do it.

    GP workload is getting to or is already beyond safe. Giving more work and responsibility without funding makes the system even less safe.

    The risk is that surgeries might not feel capable of ensuring this is done safely but have no option to say they cant do it.

    I dont accept there is no money on the table for something that is so important to them.

    No money = No time = Not safe = Not happening.

    Should have been no negotiating if no money on table.

    I would hope that the RCGP which is an optional club will keep their opinion to themselves on such matters.

    I look forward to the GPC or BMA expressing their concern that dumping unfunded work on GPs is not safe.

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  • Well said 10.09pm.
    No money no deal!
    If the government wants this work to be done and this responsibility to be shouldered, they need to pay for it themselves.

    The problem is that all the non police personal in scotland (I don't know about in England or elsewhere) who normally worked full time in dealing with firearms licencing have been sacked to save money.
    All the work is now done by local unspecialised policemen/women who really do not have a clue or much experience in firearms licencing.
    So this is why doctors are being drafted in as free labour in sorting out this issue and shouldering this burden for FREE!!!!!

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  • 10:09 - could not agree more:

    Why should we as GP partners personally pick up the bill to deliver a state service that has no funding?

    If an organisation (The Police/Home Office) wants something then it should be willing to pay for it. If it is not willing to pay, then either it cannot afford it or it does not really want it - in which case I have no interest in expending my energy to provide it.

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  • Lot of comments about no money= no deal.Are we in position to negotiate when BMA/ RCGP not supporting our say.
    Just wait when it would be imposed anyway. Till then you are allowed to moan.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Sadly Paul, a typical BMA response: "It was the best we could do". No new money- should have walked away.

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