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My first foray into firearms licensing forms

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The police sent me my first Firearms Licensing form this week. These may be old hat to more rustically-situated readers, but working as I do in an area where if a patient tells you they spent the weekend shooting on their estate you can be reasonably sure no grouse were involved, I hadn’t seen one before.

How did we end up here? 

It’s a real piece of work, this form, combining my twin bugbears of unfunded time-sapping admin and sneaky responsibility-dumping in a masterpiece of bureaucratic doublespeak that would have Orwell and Kafka high-fiving in admiration. It blithely reassures that 'at a later stage a medical report may be required', even as it forces you to check the patient’s notes in full against an amorphous ticklist of past medical history ('any other condition which you think may be relevant'). In other words, to provide a bloody medical report. Of course, there’s no mention of payment for this.

How did we end up here? In the Pulse comments section, a BMA negotiator suggests that the form should be completed from memory in a couple minutes. Bizarrely, the justification for this slapdash approach is the fact that the BMA had already agreed GPs would do the forms for no payment.  When you consider that the average firearm licensee inhabits the demographic of 'middle-aged man who never bothers the doctor' (and, for all I know, that of 'likely to be described posthumously by neighbours as keeping himself to himself'), this seems remarkably cavalier.

The BMA have belatedly issued vague guidance on charging fees, but even this carries a passive-aggressive tone which implies that perhaps you should just take on the extra work and risk for nowt. I know some colleagues will just meekly sign the form and send it off to avoid any awkwardness with their patients, and I can sympathise with this approach, given that the patients in question have been officially confirmed to be packing heat. I too was on the cusp of signing the damn thing (albeit begrudgingly, while pointedly listening to N.W.A). In the nick of time, I discovered this handy letter from Devon LMC, which I now have loaded as a template ready to deflect the next firearms form that darkens my door.

I’m sick of GPs being treated like the societal version of activated charcoal; if there’s a bit of unaccounted clinical or medico-legal risk floating about in the system that needs absorbing, send in a GP to soak it up. Well, screw that; we know what happens to charcoal – it gets systematically burnt out, crushed, devoured, and then unceremoniously spewed up once it has served its purpose. Here’s an idea: let’s stop taking on extra work for free, and be sensible about what we agree to in future.

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

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Readers' comments (6)

  • BMA are complicit with our fate here. Simply not a union.

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  • Agree. I have been most disappointed by the local LMC and BMA on this. On the one hand telling us to stop unfunded work and then giving ambiguous advice about this issue. It was an opportunity for them to show that they can say no. Unfortunately my partners have voted to do this for nothing.

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  • Just don't do unfunded work - either say no, or if the patient or police really want it done - they can pay for it!

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  • Interestingly the BASC have issued a statement that their members should refuse to pay. This one is likely to run and run. https://basc.org.uk/blog/press-releases/latest-news/basc-says-dont-pay-medical-fee/

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  • Basc is a scary website! Very clear, if they don't pay the simples no gun! You can book a flight but if no visa then you can't go on holiday simple as. See it as part of the cost of activity. One would not go on an adventure sport without buying your own protective equipment.

    The thing that has upset me about the bma is that they clearly recognised that they thought that we do not need to charge for this. They have not then issued an apology and agreed to look at it again.

    - anonymous salaried!

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  • Just bounce the form back saying you object to completing it. On principle.

    But please, i know it is unfunded, and the responsibility is crap, but please please just code it as a problem, and on behalf of all lawabiding sgc and fac holders out there, if you think the pt is wierd odd or worrying, say so somehow.! Now and in the future.

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