GP leaders will attempt to renegotiate with the Home Office on the firearms licensing procedure, following a vote of GPC members yesterday.
GPs should not to be responsible for ‘the interpretation of medical evidence’ for the police to decide whether to grant a fiirearms license or a shotgun certificate, said the motion passed at yesterday’s meeting.
The GPC will argue that the GP’s role should solely be to ‘provide access to the applicant’s full medical record, in line with statutory legislation’, with the reconsideration following an outpouring of discontent among grassroots GPs.
It will call for the interpretation to instead be ‘undertaken by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner who is not the patient’s GP’.
The vote comes after Pulse revealed earlier this week that the BMA’s updated guidance on firearms licensing said GPs cannot refuse to engage with licensing authorities.
The current system, brought in from April, means that GPs are sent a letter by police when a patient applies for a firearms licence asking if there are any recorded medical facts that could give rise to concerns if a licence is granted. GPs should also put a firearms reminder code on the patient’s medical record.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that the GPC executive and the BMA professional fees committee – which had agreed to the original arrangement – would now contact the Home Office to seek to change the procedure so GPs are not involved.
He said: ‘We are going to be writing and seeking a meeting with the Home Office to try and change this situation so that GPs don’t feel that they’re being put in a situation where they are being asked to make judgements which they don’t feel that they have the necessary competence to do.
‘I think we’re going to be looking again at what information we can provide to GPs but more importantly wanting to seek a better system than is currently in place,’ he added.
This comes after BMA guidance was updated this week to take account of the ‘regulatory obligations’ on GPs and says that if GPs decline to help with a gun licence due to conscientious objection, they should find another option for the patient.
This was a change from their previous stance that GPs should refuse firearms requests straightaway. This provoked outrage on social media and among Pulse commentators, and campaign group GP Survival called the system ‘absolutely unacceptable in every possible way’.
BMA guidance has always stated that GPs can charge a fee for this work, at odds with the BASC position that GPs should reply to the initial letter to police for free.
If a medical report is required as part of the licensing process, everyone agrees that a GP can charge a fee.
The motion in full:
a) That the interpretation of medical evidence to assist the Chief Constable in their decision regarding the grant or renewal of a firearms or shotgun certificate should be undertaken by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner who is not the patient’s General Practitioner
b) That the role of the GP is to continue to provide access to the applicant’s full medical record, in line with statutory legislation;
GPCE mandates the GPCE Executive to negotiate arrangements to reflect the above, in collaboration with the BMA’s Professional Fees Committee.