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GPs should get a ‘reasonable fee’ for firearm checks, argue Lords

GPs should receive a ‘reasonable fee’ for checking medical records and monitoring patients who possess a firearms licence, according to members of the House of Lords.

Under new proposals, being discussed in Parliament, GPs should get an 'agreed' fee for carrying out the medical checks - an area where there is currently 'no consistency' across England and Wales.

Firearms and shotgun certificates should also be extended from five to 10 years to 'reduce pressure on licensing departments', the Lords said.

The proposed measures were discussed during the second reading of the Offensive Weapons Bill - announced in June - in the House of Lords, which was put forward in response to a rise in violent crimes involving knifes and firearms across the country.

GPs have been involved in the firearms application process since 2016, when they were asked to place a ‘firearm reminder’ code in the records of all patients who have a gun and inform police whether those were at risk of developing a mental health issue.

At the time the BMA's guidance was vague when it came to GPs being allowed to charge for the service, but they later advised GPs to reject all requests from the police due to a lack of funding.

However, under new proposals by the Lords, there could be an 'agreed' fee that GPs can charge.

During the second reading of the bill this month, the Earl of Shrewsbury Charles Chetwynd-Talbot said: 'In England and Wales, there is no consistency of practice between police forces, nor is there any consistency of the fee charged to the applicant by his or her GP for a medical assessment.'

The Earl of Caithness Malcolm Sinclair said: 'The third (proposal) is an agreed reasonable fee for the GP’s initial medical records check and placing the enduring marker. On that, the Home Office has said that there should not be a fee for the initial check but, quite clearly, there is evidence that GPs are already charging a fee.'

The proposed process mandates:

  • A compulsory and once-only medical records check by a GP in response to a police inquiry about the physical and mental health of the applicant.
  • An enduring marker to be placed by the GP on the patient’s medical record noting that he may be in possession of a firearm or shotgun, to ensure that thereafter the GP is reminded to draw to the police’s attention any future adverse change in the patient’s health that may have a bearing on his ability safely to possess a firearm or shotgun.
  • An agreed reasonable fee for the GP’s initial medical records check and placing the enduring marker.
  • An extension of the life of firearms and shotgun certificates from five to 10 years, which will reduce pressure on licensing departments.
  • A protection on the confidentiality of applicants and certificate holders’ data.

BMA’s GP Committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood told Pulse: ‘The firearms licensing process is primarily intended to ensure public safety, and the BMA supports moves towards an appropriately resourced system to minimise the risks of gun ownership. There can be no half measures when it comes to the licensing of weapons that can be used with lethal outcomes.

‘The questions of structured medical reports, firearms flags and the extension of the licensing cycle to 10 years have all been discussed in the context of a clear and funded framework.’

The BMA previously said GPs can conscientiously object to taking part in the firearms process without providing the patient with an alternative.

Last year, patients in Kent were told they will need GP sign-off if they want to own a firearm, after Kent Police released new guidance of applying for a licence.

And in November, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said police departments may have breached the law by sending 'unnecessary' subject access requests (SARs) to GP practices to establish whether patients are ‘medically safe’ to hold a firearms licence.

Readers' comments (21)

  • The Earl of Shrewsbury is a hereditary peer.

    The lineage used to own Alton Towers.

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  • So they determine what a professional can charge. How about a fixed fee for lawyers too?

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  • I wonder if it is an opportunity for someone who is prepared to do it, to go around local practices and fill i the forms for practices that don’t want to do them?

    I guess it depends on how much the fee is.

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  • Just refuse - this is not part of GMS. Send it to APMS and they will be given funding upto xyz as NHS can afford to pay them any amount for similar services done free by GMS.

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  • I wouldn't go near this with anyones bargepole; for an unspecified fee one is taking on a responsibility which is not time-constrained, demands a level of vigilance which seems to hard to achieve for many when it comes to what we are supposed to be doing (ie clinical medicine), nevermind dealing with an item which is designed to do nothing but kill (unlike medicines which may kill on occasion) plus the public opprobrium (and loss of peace of mind) which would occur when the gunholder goes postal.

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  • The Government and the RCGP agreed that GPs are ideally placed to do these checks - priced individually at 20 pence, and covered in any case the global sum.

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  • Suspect some plebbish begrudgery with this. Depriving Aristo's of their 'manorial rights' to 'blast and bag' anything that moves, for free. What will be next?, 'Droit de seigneur'?

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  • What if the patient moves practice. Where does the responsibility lie with checking then? Will all practice mark the notes in the same way?

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  • "Reasonable costs" to cover the "reasonable indemity fees" of course being outside the GMS this will not be covered by the new wonder government indemnity.

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  • Non NHS work we don't want to do- trying to force it on us at an unfair cost

    Non NHS work we do want to do- OH no you cant do that its fine for consultants but you cant be trusted to do it on your own patients you money grabbing parasites

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