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GPs to share more information with police on firearms licence suitability

GPs could have a new role in advising on patients’ suitability to hold a firearms license, after the BMA identified that public safety was being jeopardised by the existing regulations, a home office letter has said.

The BMA, Home Office, police and shooting organisations are currently developing new national arrangements after recent shootings identified the need for better, and more consistent information sharing between police and GPs about the medical conditions which could affect a person’s suitability to posses a gun.

The home office is now calling on GPs to submit their views and experiences of firearms licensing and what role they should be playing, before a final decision is taken on increasing the amount of data sharing with the police.

Currently practices receive a letter when a patient has been issued or reissued a firearm, and will be asked to give concerns. GPs are not obliged to respond to these letters but where they do disclose information must first seek patient consent – unless the patient poses an immediate risk to themselves or others.

In some areas GPs may be asked to give a reference or asked to disclose medical history. The BMA contest GPs should be paid for any work done for the police but there is no nationally agreed fee.

The Home Office letter states: ‘In the interests of public safety, it is essential to ensure that the police have access to all relevant information, including on medical fitness, when they consider a firearm or shotgun application or the ongoing suitability of a person to continue to possess a gun.’

‘New arrangements, once agreed, will be underpinned by an information sharing agreement setting out clearly the role of the GP and police.’

Pilots are currently underway in two areas, with GPs in Durham reviewing all firearms applications before they are submitted to police, and in Wiltshire pilots are under way to test an ‘enduring marker’ which goes on the medical records of firearms holders so GPs can flag up any medical concerns.

Wessex LMCs are also in consultation about rolling out the ‘enduring marker’ scheme in some practices.

The BMA has previously criticised proposals for routine assesment of firearms licensees as ‘unreasonable’.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Simple......it is my opinion that no-one is suitable for a firearms licence.
    Problem solved!

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  • David Bush

    Anonymous 5.54am:
    600,000 people in the UK regularly engage in shooting sports (mostly clay pigeon shooting), and shooting sports support 74,000 jobs in the UK and are estimated to be worth £2bn per year to the UK economy.
    Can you explain why you think these activities should be outlawed?

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  • Anon @ 5:54
    Cars and motorbikes kill many multiples of people each day in the UK compared to guns. Is it also your opinion that no-one is suitable for a driving licence?

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  • It appears that GPs can do EVERYTHING- so why not dump even more responsibility and accountability on them.
    This is really what this is about- the anon teams already well paid to do this job are faaling short so best to get us involved
    someone else blame.

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  • Unfunded work. I dont do it. Fund me - I do it.

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  • John Glasspool

    I too was concerned that a DOCTOR- probably, made that first post. I saw similar view expressed on DNUK when I was a member. I think this suggests that some doctors would use their personal prejudice in giving the police "advice"- contrary to the GMC guidance. (Not that I hold any brief for the GMC; I hate it.)
    I have a rifle and shotgun; used for vermin control on my land in fact, and without it, there would be a major problem for me, and my neighbours.
    Anyway, it has, with certain sad exceptions (Dunblane and Hungerford come to mind) illegally held arms that cause the problem.
    Is it not true that all Swiss males from c 18-55 have a rifle at home? The population hasn't been decimated.

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  • John - you can control vermin with bait boxes and trapping eg Larsen and crow traps (I am also a farmer). Whilst I respect those engaged in gun sports, I have personal grave reservations about signing gun licences. Perhaps the answer is for the police to make more use of their registers, including those for domestic violence, and for more than one person to have to sign the licence.

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  • It runs even deeper than this. I enjoy shooting clays on a Sunday morning. It allows me to meet a lot of people, and I often bump into a patient of mine, who has been seeing a psychiatrist for many years for his chronic depression. He is not a lunatic or a psychotic killer, but if i were asked about his health record the cops would undoubtedly strip him of his licence, his guns, his hobby, and his social circle. Perhaps that would drive him to do something daft!!

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  • I am not able to say whether someone is safe to own a gun. I can offer a report about illnesses but I will not try to predict the future. Any report I make should either be because of a standard NHS duty or should be paid for by the body requesting the report.
    The BMA negotiating committee failed to get these simple points over at the last negotiations, hopefully they will do better this time

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