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All GPs must help patients obtain firearms licences if requested, BMA says

GPs who refuse to deal with firearms licensing requests because of conscientious objection have to help patients find another doctor, says updated BMA guidance.

The new guidance says GPs ‘must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so’ and if GPs refuse to engage with the process based on conscientious objection they have to put in place alternative options for the patient.

Since April this year, GPs have been expected to keep a record of all patients who own a gun – and to inform police if anybody develops a mental health problem such as depression.

Previous BMA advice said that GPs may be able to refuse based on conscientious objection to gun ownership but the updated guidance says this refusal would have to be undertaken in line with GMC guidance.

This requires GPs to notify patients of this objection in advance, and if the service is not easily available from another doctor, ‘the GP that objects has a professional duty to put in place alternative arrangements for the provision of the relevant services or procedures without delay'.

The new guidance replaces previous guidance that stated that GPs should refuse all firearms requests after the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) advised its members to refuse to pay a fee to the GP for this process.

But after discussions with the BASC, the Home Office and taking external legal advice, the BMA has now said that the new guidance ‘takes account of the regulatory obligations on the part of GPs and specifically the requirement to “comply with all relevant legislation”’.

The advice goes onto say that this ‘obliges GPs to cooperate with and agree to facilitate statutory processes in which they have a prescribed role or function’.

The guidance still allows for GPs to charge for firearms licences, saying: ‘However, it is also clear that where a fee for the relevant services has not been provided within the terms of the GMS contract, it may be demanded and that the GP can withhold such services until such time as the fee has been paid.‘

It later says: 'The demand for a fee may form a condition, which if not fulfilled, means the GP can refuse to engage in the firearms certification process.’

The guidance re-emphasises that GPs cannot simply ignore the letter from the police or delay a reply as this places them at professional risk.

This advice only applies to the initial letter from the police, which asks if GPs have any concerns about the patient applying for the firearms licence. BASC still advises any licence applicants to pay if a medical report is requested as part of the licensing process.

Dr John Canning, GPC professional fees and regulation subcommittee chair, said it is 'unacceptable' for GPs 'to take no action at all' when they receive a request.

He told Pulse: 'If someone comes in and says, "I’m a gamekeeper, I’m very depressed and I’ve got a gun and I’m thinking of using it" and I do nothing about it then I’m in grave danger of having to explain myself.'

It comes as GPs received letters from firearms licensing bodies suggesting they could not refuse requests.

The Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department of Hampshire Constabulary wrote that it 'will regard you as having a part to play in the duty of care to prevent harm and loss of life and the management of risk around licence holders'.

Tony Hill, firearms licensing manager at the constabulary, said they 'regard the GP as having shared responsibility with us for the prevention of harm through the use, or threat of use, of licensed firearms'.

He said that if GPs don't engage with the process 'there is a danger that medical conditions that might affect the suitability of a person to possess firearms may go unreported to us'.

He added: 'The possible consequences of this for the patient or others are clearly severe, and it is for this reason that we point out the potential ramifications for these doctors.'

 

 

 

Readers' comments (57)

  • What a load of old crap.
    If a Dr conscientously objects to firearms ownership (many good reasons why), then they should naturally also object to facilitating it through passing to another Dr.
    If its a hobby then keep the guns securely on shooting ranges. Shooters- don't moan about the cost of licensing- its a hobby- plenty other hobbies are expensive- get over it or stop doing it. I see enough people on my daily journey who struggle with the cost of living, never mind leisure pursuits.
    If you're a gamekeeper- get your boss Lord Pompous to pay for the privilege. He earns enough from charging bumbling old yahs £5000 a day for firing vaguely in the direction of grouse.
    Plenty of much more important stuff to do at the moment without this utter nonsense.

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  • @8.30 am
    Can you explain why all of a sudden it has suddenly become a GPs job to become unnoficial and largely, unpaid policeman of the gun owning classes? The GP, who will cop it when something inevitably goes wrong.
    What level of responsibility do you have as an 'other healthcare professional'

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  • Gosh, "gun owning classes"????
    Just let it all out, don't bottle it up now.

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  • Dear TWIMC, we are not compelled to complete non-contractual work, however, in order not to adversely impede the application for a firearm, nor to overlook any serious health issues, we draw your attention to the fact that the records of the applicant are available, please inspect them at your leisure, or proceed to your own formal examination and assessment of the applicant, kind regards

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  • Jonathan Pywell | GP Partner15 Nov 2016 7:01pm

    You forget Doctors don't have human rights!

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  • @9.34am
    I see you didn't answer the questions.

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  • The wrongs or rights of this are good to debate.
    Doctors do have human rights but so do people who own guns.
    Gun owners are continually victimised in many ways for their use of guns in their sport/hobby/occupation and have been for years.
    Hopefully a workable solution can be found which works for all party's without so much negative emotion.
    Unfortunately the government has sacked the majority those in the police force who understand and previously licenced firearms, to save money! It was not the fault of the firearms owner this happened. Just one of the many government cuts which are taking place everywhere. Gps and all doctors, myself included, know much about cuts.
    Soon all gp services will be for fees, when the NHS collapses.
    Firearms holders have to have a spotless record to own and keep a firearm. They are just ordinary people trying to live, like everyone else. They already accept they need to pay for a firearms licence, which they already do under current rules.
    Hopefully with good will on all sides, a way forwards can be found to resolve this issue.

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  • I think youll find goodwill is long gone. These are the same patients who wouldnt bat an eyelid sueing any of us if we make a mistake despite how small, in the context of working in an unsafe environment.


    no work done by people who are not skilled to do so - we cannot determine who is fit to hold a firearms license, nor can we be held responsible for telling the police if a licenseholder gets mental health issues in the future. i agree with much of the above - charge the force for cost of all the notes, and let them make their minds up.

    please remember - most of our population knows its rights and not its responsibilities, and this is why we are crumbling to a halt.

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  • Why can't a system similar to that for driving licences be put in place. Both lethal weapons.
    Call it the "GLA" ie. gun licensing authority.
    They issue licence, they do the regular checks, patient under obligation to inform of altered circumstances.
    We provide factual information or alert the "GLA" as appropriate as we would the DVLA.

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