GPs should not be expected to make any decisions on whether or not to approve patient requests to own firearms, the GPC has said.
Instead, it is calling on the Home Office to confirm that GPs can fulfil statutory and contractual requirements simply by providing access to their records to allow specially-trained professionals to judge whether a patient is medically fit to hold a license.
It comes after the BMA issued updated guidance last week, stressing that GPs ‘must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so’ to remain in line with current statutory regulation.
The BMA advice superseded its previous advice that GPs could choose to send back letters asking about patients’ medical fitness to hold a firearm license, citing a lack of funding or a conscientious objection to gun ownership.
Grassroots GPs rallied against the BMA’s updated guidance, calling it ‘totally unacceptable’ to expect GPs to make the decision and be held responsible for any potential consequences.
Although no strict timeline has been put in place, the GPC will seek to have the requirements clarified and changed ‘as soon as possible’.
The announcement comes after it passed a motion last week outlining that GPs should not be expected to approve requests or renewals for firearms licenses.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The committee expressed concerns that have been widely expressed about the Home Office guidance and the expectation placed on GPs. We have asked to seek an urgent meeting with the Home Office to sort this out and make it clear.
‘We’re effectively saying it’s unreasonable to expect GPs to make this decision. They may have to provide access to clinical information – but it really should be an expert in the area making the clinical decision on whether someone is fit or not to own a firearm.
‘That would be for the Home Office or the police to commission an appropriate body to do that.’
He added that it was ‘unlikely’ GPs should come into difficulties for following the previous guidance and not engaging with the process now that the BMA’s guidance has changed.
‘Everyone knows this is a difficult area, and the BMA is trying to provide the best advice based on the best legal advice,’ he said. ‘If any GP feels they are being dealt with inappropriately they should contact their local representative.’
Motion passed by the GPC
GPCE (GPC England) believes:
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.