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Medical evidence for FAC/SGC applications

posted 22 Jan 2020, 12:32 by Tony Cattermole   [ updated 24 Jan 2020, 04:19 ]
We currently await the Government response to the public consultation regarding medical evidence. Statutory Guidance will then be introduced.

Meanwhile police FLDs have been concerned about engagement of GPs. Below I quote edited details from an email received from a specific police FLD and relating to the agenda for a stakeholders meeting late last year which I attended. The LMC is the “Local Medical Council” and you may contact/refer your GP to the local one if necessary. Whilst this was to police FLD the advice is general.

The main police concern seems to be over the risk of non compliance or lack of engagement from some GPs in confirming the applicant’s suitability to hold a FAC or SGC. However it seems, from what we read below, that the BMA are now making it clear that this is a public interest issue, (indeed, public service and safety issue) and GPs must comply. This may help in talking to your FEO and your GP.

We believe that this obviates the need to seek a letter from the GP submitted with the application and re-inforces the existing system (as per the current 2016 guidance) where the police FLD must engage with the GP upon receipt of the application.

A form of mandatory obligation on the GP to engage with police is at the core of the matter. As HBSA and BSSC wrote in our response to the consultation, there is an obligation already on two of the three parties involved, but not on the third - the GPs.

We hope that police forces can now be persuaded to follow the 2016 guidance until the new (statutory) guidance emerges from the results of the consultation and some form of obligation imposed upon the GPs.

"As far as the LMC is concerned, any GP that conscientiously objects should
do so in accordance with the BMA guidelines. Unfortunately, it was our
experience during the first month that this was not the case for a small
number of surgeries. We were contacted by a number of applicants (and
shooting organisations) who requested our assistance in dealing with their
surgeries who were conscientiously objecting and not providing any
alternative provision. This was clearly not acceptable to the applicant, the
police and the LMC.

After consulting at length with the CEO of the LMC, he issued a letter
at the beginning of September to all local surgeries that reiterated the BMA
guidance, which makes it clear that the process of firearms licensing is in
the public interest and refusal to engage with the process could place them
at professional risk. However, he further explained that the BMA also makes
it clear that individual GPs have a right to conscientiously object to
providing a report on the basis of their personal and individual religious
or ethical beliefs.

The advice from the LMC to those GP's who wish to
exercise a conscientious objection to the holding of firearms is as follows:
1. GP's must only declare a conscientious objection where they
legitimately hold such a personal belief for religious or ethical reasons
2. GP's must make their patients aware of the conscientious objection
in advance, and explain it to them. It must be clearly visible in areas such
as practice literature, notice boards and on the surgery website
3. GP's must not discriminate between patients
4. GP's should assist the patient in finding an alternative colleague
who can complete the process for them, and must not obstruct their ability
to do so
5. GP's may not have a blanket practice policy on objecting to the
process - The GMC defines conscientious objection as an individually held
personal belief

The legal view the LMC has obtained advises practices that deviating from
the above advice places the GP at significant medicolegal and/or regulatory
risk. The LMC has strongly advised practices to follow this guidance when
exercising a conscientious objection, and in all other circumstances to
comply with the medical process of firearms licensing which the LMC has
negotiated with the police, in line with professional and statutory
obligations. Since this advice has been issued we have been able to advise
applicants accordingly and the LMC continues to assist the police and
applicants in ensuring that GP surgeries comply with the BMA guidance and
the medical process currently in place ....

The local area has approximately 250 GP surgeries and so far we (the
police) have identified 2.8% of surgeries who are conscientious objectors.
As advised by the LMC, these surgeries should assist the applicant in
finding an alternative colleague/surgery to complete the process.

There are also a number of GP's, locally and nationally, who are prepared to
provide this service privately. Dr …. has been carrying out some work
locally and we have both met with MedCert (a national service) in order to
ensure that their processes are aligned with ours. This company is in its
infancy but appears to provide a good service for all applicants, not just
those who are having problems engaging with their GP's, and their fees are
very reasonable. Whilst we (the police) are unable to endorse this company
we are satisfied that their processes do not impact on public safety and
have already accepted GP pro forma's from them. We are aware that there is
another GP in Kent but attempts to contact him have not been successful."

Also attached is a recent article published in the Pull! Magazine
November/December 2019, which was written by Laura Saunsbury, who is a
solicitor that specialises in firearms licensing. In this article she
mentions MedCert and also provides applicants with some practical advice on
the pre medical application verification process.
(With acknowledgement to Pull! and Laura Saunsbury).

Derek Stimpson