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.’