Update as of 07/09/16
A lot has changed since our last blog on the new medical system for firearms licensing, posted back in June. As such we want to update our members, especially those in the process of being granted or renewing a firearm or shotgun licence.
Since July the British Medical Association (BMA) has updated their guidelines on firearms licensing, stating that all medical forms sent to GPs by the police regarding the health of a firearm certificate applicant should be returned unanswered. The resulting situation is similar to that which existed pre-April, with no initial check of medical records and no continuous monitoring, both of which the BMA agreed to as part of the Medical Evidence Working Group (MEWG).
The Countryside Alliance believes this new medical system will improve firearms licensing and safety, potentially providing further justification for a future move to 10 year licences. Unfortunately the BMA’s u-turn has effectively signalled to GPs that they do not have to act in the best interests of the licence applicant, and rather than simply return the police letters unanswered many GPs are in fact attempting to charge their patients for completing initial check. This is happening despite the fact that all participants in the MEWG agreed this initial check should be done free of charge.
A further source of concern is the wording of the new BMA guidelines. Not only are they refusing to participate in the new (and previously agreed) system, they are telling their members to refuse the system by claiming a ‘conscientious objection to gun ownership’, a truly outrageous position with no basis in the BMA’s own employment ethics. The Countryside Alliance have written to the BMA twice requesting clarification and have yet to receive a response. We will be pursuing this further.
The current situation is not working, causing confusion among applicants for firearm and shotgun licences and leaving the BMA isolated from the other members of the MEWG. We will continue to push for a working system that benefits the shooting community and the general public.
30th June 2016
A new medical system to work alongside the UK’s firearm licensing system, brought in on the 1 April, has already begun to cause confusion for both the British Medical Association (BMA) and those being granted or renewed firearms licences.
The new system that was designed to bring about the start of the continuous monitoring of health issues for firearms licence holders was originally agreed on by the BMA, the Home Office, Police and shooting organisations, however, gaps in the system that were highlighted at the beginning have already begun to widen causing a number of issues.
The new medical system works by the police sending a letter to the applicant’s GP, the GP will then send a report back to the police stating that there is either a potential problem that needs further investigation or not, the GP will also put a marker on the applicant’s medical folder. This marker will allow the GP to raise with the police any relevant medical issues that may occur in the future, hence continuous monitoring. The list of relevant medical issues has not changed with the new system, however, the way in which the police and the GPs communicate has been enhanced to improve public safety and the safety of licence holders.
Unfortunately within two months, there have already been a number of issues raised, mainly revolving around the fact that the GPs are not meant to invoice the applicant for the initial report (only any future reports depending on the police’s decision). So far there have been a number of GP’s either returning the letters unanswered to the police, ignoring the letters from the police outright or sending invoices to the police.
In one instance the GP sent an invoice directly to the applicant even though the GP had given the OK for the police to issue the shotgun licence. The GP practice stated along with the invoice that if it was not paid then a second report would be sent to the police, risking the revocation of the licence.
Furthermore, a public letter has been sent from a Local Medical Committee in Devon to practices to turn down police requests for information on firearms license applicants. It states that GPs do not have the expertise to diagnose personality disorders. The problem with this is that the medical conditions the doctors have to look into have not changed, and it is only for the police to decide whether an applicant is fit to hold a firearm or not.
The Countryside Alliance has stated that the continuous monitoring of fitness for licence holders can work and will be of benefit to public safety if fully functional. However, to be fully functional the GPs need to work in accordance with the guidance set by the Home Office in accordance with the BMA, the police and licence holders. Fortunately for the shooting community, there is a review of the process at the end of this year, so all issues can be brought to light and fixed.
If you have had any problems with the new medical system please let us know ([email protected]) so it can be brought up at this important review stage, it is vital that we are left with a working system with all stakeholders pulling their weight for the greater good.