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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)

  • To Dr Paul Cundy
    I don't get it: we don't have to respond? It pretty much says we do.

    And as for a "memory sweep": are you insane? No competent professional would agree to doing this without looking at the notes just in case my partners have recently Prozaced him. Then we've got to remember the bloody Read code and add it. 10 seconds? It takes that long to load a patient

    I seriously doubt you'll be eligible to get another shotgun licence with that type of thought disorder. Oh well, I'm an inner city gp. We don't have to worry about licences here...

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  • "Pass the buck" to GPs--yet again !!!!!
    Havent we got too much to do already!

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  • I have to agree with John Glasspool here. Paul Cundy advances a very weak argument and shows he (and the BMA) to bean even weaker negotiator. By far the majority of gun offences are committed with illegally held firearms which this will not address.

    If this is an example of how the BMA (paid by doctors to represent THEIR interests) negotiates no wonder the Junior Doctors are resorting to strikes to achieve any progress.

    If the BMA had shown a bit more grit earlier in the negotiations the present crisis could have been avoided.

    Negotiators need to learn that when the deal looks unattractive or unachievable it is better to walk away early and stop wasting time effort and political capital on flogging a dead horse.

    The latest figures on manpower in the NHS released by DoH reveals the extent of the mess which the collective "negotiators" have created. Any halfwit could have predicted that WTEs would be drastically reduced as soon as it emerged that a majority of medical students were women. This is not discriminatory or sexist but simply a statement of fact. As more women showed that you could have a medical career as a part timer more men adopted the same lifestyle choice exacerbating the problem. As usual short term blinkered vision by DoH has created the problems which will take a decade or more to resolve.

    Time to call a halt to lunacy.

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  • No new money=no new work. Period!
    Actually how about the money saved in sacking all the existing firearms staff.
    The BMA are negociating away our lives here. They think doctors are worthless and not worthy of being paid. There should be a rival union for doctors as.I am.sick of the BMA and its inability to help doctors.

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  • Our entire practice has just opted out. You have to conscientiously object.
    It only costs us a stamp or a fax every time we get one now.


    Fundamentally its an unsafe system, but personally I'm especially dismayed that the BMA would

    a) underestimate the work that is involved or the importance of it. they actually say its okay to sign the form if you have no knowledge of the patient, and

    b) expect me to do the work for nothing because it wont take very long. Is this the same BMA that still charges its members for whatever it is that it does?

    What on earth has gone wrong with our profession?

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