The police watchdog has recommended that GPs should provide medical reports for their patients who are applying for firearms licences, paid for by the patient themselves.
The report of firearms licensing by the inspector for police forces in England and Wales says that there are ‘fundamental gaps’ in how police check the mental health of gun owners.
It says a licence should not be given without a current medical report from a GP, paid for by the patient.
GPs are not obliged to respond to police requests for medical information about potential firearms holders or note if their patients hold certificates, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) says.
John Canning, chair of the BMA’s professional fees committee, supported the requirement for a GP to give police a report on a patient before the person is given a gun licence.
‘It is encouraging that HMIC has accepted our advice… However, we do need to ensure that the practical implementation of the proposed system is effective, should it be taken forward, and does not unnecessarily increase workload for GPs at a time when many are struggling to cope with patient demand and falling resources.’
The HMIC report says that although applicants for gun licences must tell police about any relevant medical conditions and allow officers to speak to their GPs, many licences are approved regardless of whether or not police have spoken to referees or the GP has looked at the applicants’ medical records.
HMIC recommends a mandatory system so that anyone who wants a gun licence should obtain a medical report from their GP.
GPs will be required to record if their patients own gun licences — and tell police of any deterioration in their mental health, including dementia.
Home Office guidance — now being updated — is expected to reflect this but not make it a legal requirement, the BMA said.