23 June 2016 – GPs’ trade unions up and down the country are digging their heels in and refusing to co-operate with police over sharing shooters’ health data, it has emerged.
According to a report in the Guardian today, doctors are complaining that they’re not being paid enough for filling out and returning medical forms to the police.
A Dr John Canning of Middlesbrough told the paper: “Under the old system, GPs were asked, ‘do you have concerns?’ after licences were given, which is a bit like closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted.”
This is a falsehood. Doctors were consulted, under the old system, during the process of issuing a firearm or shotgun certificate if the applicant told the police about a relevant medical condition.
Concerningly, a minor doctors’ trade union in Devon has developed proformas with which GPs can refuse to comply with police demands for shooters’ data (PDF here). The concern is because if the police are denied unrestricted access to shooters’ medical data by a GP for whatever reason, they may well simply refuse to issue or vary certificates.
The new medical system for shooters, introduced in April, expects GPs to routinely inform on shooters’ health to the police, supplying them with fresh data as it becomes available to the doctor. Firearm and shotgun certificate application forms now require shooters to waive their rights under the Data Protection Act, which ensure doctors can only process your medical information for genuine medical purposes.
Many shooters have privately voiced concern that their doctor is no longer someone they can trust, particularly when it comes to mental health concerns, as there is a strong risk of an inappropriate certificate revocation and a police raid on your home if a risk-averse policeman with no knowledge or understanding of mental health conditions sees certain trigger phrases.
It is likely, given the behaviour of the British Medical Association trade union earlier this year in relation to junior doctors’ contracts, that the doctors will suddenly change their tune if more money is dangled before them. Much of the literature from the BMA on firearms centres around whether a fee can be charged and who should pay it.