Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes: A new procedure comes in to force today, 1st April, which will mean the continuous monitoring of health issues for firearms licence holders. Those of us who own guns already agree to allow GPs to discuss issues with the police during the licence application and renewal process. The new system will make it easier for GPs to be able to flag up any relevant medical condition that is cause for concern during the lifetime of a certificate.

By ensuring that the GP is aware of the fact that their patient is a certificate holder it will prompt them to get in touch with the police firearms licensing department if a medical condition arises, which might affect the fitness to possess firearms, part way through a certificate period. This continuous monitoring will not change the current ‘medical issues of concern’, nor the reasons for the police to ask for a medical referral. It will, however, allow closer cooperation between police forces and GPs which will be of benefit to the public and the shooting community.

The Countryside Alliance has been part of the Medical Evidence Working Group since its inception considering improvements to the system which would have minimal impact on the vast majority of certificate holders, but help to prevent those rare occurrences when failure to detect health concerns has led to risk to public safety and the safety of licence holders. We also hope that this process of continuous monitoring will lead to longer certificate life, possibly seeing renewals every 10 years rather than every five, which would reduce the burden on police forces.

We fully support the implementation of the new system, however there will be a bedding in process and so we will be working closely with the police and Home Office on agreed reviews of the project after six months and a year to make sure any issues that may arise can be straightened out. It is in all our interests that this new system is effective as it is in all our interests that those very few licence holders who develop serious medical conditions which might make them a risk to themselves and others are identified as soon as possible.

We are asking all Countryside Alliance members to get in touch at [email protected] if they experience any difficulties or issues with the new system over the coming year. It is vital that the end product we are left with is a workable and successful system for all to use. The Home Office has also produced a factsheet that will be of additional help if you have any further questions.

Follow Tim on Twitter @CA_TimB