General practitioner England Scotland Wales Ethics

Last updated:

Firearms licencing process: support guide

Created:

A new process for GPs and police to share information was introduced in April 2016, to ensure those licensed to possess firearm and shotgun certificates are medically fit.

This process has since caused significant concern to our members, specifically the work involved in responding to the initial letter from the Police requesting information and to place a marker on the medical record.

In addition, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) are now advising their members to refuse payment to GPs for responding to the initial police letter.

As a result, we have revised our guidance and informed the Home Office as we continue to actively engage with them on improving the process.

 

What's changed?

We are now advising GPs to return the letter to the police without delay explaining they are unable to undertake the work due to a lack of funding or for a conscientious objection to gun ownership.

It is not acceptable to:

  • disregard the letter
  • not inform the police
  • delay a reply

In doing any of the above, you could place yourself at professional risk.

Where there is a reasonable belief that an individual either applying for a firearm or shotgun license or already holding one, may represent a danger to themselves or others, we strongly advise doctors to encourage the applicant to reconsider or revoke their application.

If the applicant refuses, you should consider breaching normal confidentiality and inform the police firearms licensing department as a matter of urgency.

This advice only relates to the initial letter asking GPs to add a marker to the patient record. Applicants are still being advised by BASC to pay their GP for any full medical report being requested by the police as part of their application.

Although we are advising GPs to refuse the work, for those GPs who choose to participate in the process, the following guidance remains.

 

Guidance for GPs choosing to undertake the work

  • In detail

    Should you choose to undertake this work, read the detailed guidance below.

     

    Step 1: Police notify GP

    England and Wales

    GPs will be sent a letter from the police asking you to add a firearm or shotgun Read code to the patient's record after the applicant has been granted a firearms or shotgun license. This process is due to change in July 2016 so that the letter will be sent prior to the license being granted.

    Scotland

    GPs will from the outset be contacted by the police prior to granting or renewing the licence. If an applicant is not successful in renewing or receiving a firearm or shotgun the police, or the license is revoked at any stage, the police will inform the GP practice so that the clinical record can be updated with the Clinical Codes and Terms to indicate that the individual no longer has a firearms or shotgun certificate.

     

    Step 2: GP notifies the police

    In the same letter, you will also be asked to notify the police if you have any concerns. At this stage you will only need to respond to the letter by ticking 'Yes' or 'No' to the following questions:

    • Do you have concerns about your patient being issued with a firearm or shotgun certificate?
    • Has your patient suffered from any relevant medical conditions listed below, during the previous five years:
    • acute Stress Reaction or an acute reaction to the stress caused by a trauma
    • suicidal thoughts or self harm
    • depression or anxiety
    • dementia
    • mania, bipolar disorder or a psychotic illness
    • personality disorder
    • neurological condition for example; Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's or Huntington's diseases, or epilepsy
    • alcohol or drug related abuse
    • have you placed a firearm or shotgun reminder code on the patient record?

     

    Guidance on fees

    Responding to the police letter to indicate whether there are any concerns and that a code on the patient's medical record has been added, is not part of the GP contract.

    In those cases, where the applicant is happy to pay the fee and you are willing to undertake the work, you must:

    • seek confirmation from the patient and agree a fee before undertaking the work
    • respond to the Police within 21 days
    • if responding within 21 days is not possible (for whatever reason), contact the police as soon as possible

    As this is a new process and there ongoing discussions regarding the process, no specific fee has been agreed. However we publish fees guidance for various Government departments that you may wish to refer to when setting and agreeing your fees before undertaking the work.

    If you are not willing to undertake the work, you must not:

    • disregard the letter
    • choose not inform the police
    • delay a reply

    In doing so you could be placing yourself at professional risk.

     

    Duty to breach confidentiality

    Doctors owe a duty of confidentiality to all their patients. The duty is not absolute.

    Where there is a reasonable belief that an individual either applying for a firearm or shotgun license or already holding one, may represent a danger to themselves or others, we strongly advise doctors to encourage the applicant to reconsider or revoke their application.

    If the applicant refuses, you should consider breaching confidentiality and inform the police firearms licensing department as a matter of urgency. If in any doubt, you should seek further ethical and legal advice from our Ethics department and the defence bodies.

     

    Additional medical reports requested by the police

    If you indicate in your response to the police, that you have concerns or you have ticked yes to any of the listed conditions, it is up to the police to then decide whether they then require further detailed medical information from you in the form of a full medical report, for which a fee can be charged.

    As this is a new process and we anticipate the level of detail requested by the police may vary, no specific fee has been agreed. However we publish fees guidance for various Government departments that you may wish to refer to when setting and agreeing your fees before undertaking the work.

     

    Further information

    If you are in any doubt, you should seek further ethical and legal advice from our Ethics department and the defence bodies.

    Ethics department
    E: [email protected]

  • Further information

    Further information is available in Appendix 11 of the Home Office document 'Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law April 2016'

    Download the Home Office guidance (PDF)