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BMA updates guidance on firearms certification again

The BMA has again updated its guidance on responding to police requests for information relating to firearms certification.

Since 1 April 2016, information sharing processes between GPs and police have been in place to ensure patients are medically fit to hold a firearm or shotgun. Under this agreement, GPs are required to to provide a factual report based on the applicant's medical history and may be asked if they have 'concerns' about an individual's fitness to possess a firearm.

In November 2016, the BMA updated its guidance to say that 'GPs must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so' and warns that failure to do so could place them at professional risk.

However, the association has again updated its guidance and it now says that GPs are able to refuse to engage in the firearms certification process on grounds of conscientious objection on the basis of religious or ethical beliefs.

What does the new guidance say?

The latest GPC guidance (published in March 2017) is designed to advise doctors on how to respond to the initial general request from police firearms licensing officers. It says GPs must respond to the initial police letter within 21 days or they could be at professional risk.

Practices are entitled to charge the applicant a fee and can withold the report until the fee is paid (but you must inform the police that the reason for the delay is that you are waiting payment).

The BMA has provided two sample letters to enable GPs to repond to an initial request saying that they either refuse to provide a report because of a conscientious objection or because the request seeks an opinion on matters falling outside of their medical expertise.

There are also three sample letters to confirm to police that you are responding to their request, with different options available depending on the information requested and confirming that the police will not receive the report until the applicant pays the fee requested

In certain targeted situations the police may ask for a full formal report. There is agreement that police funding is required for this formal report.

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