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phaedra1106uk

Home Office to change Doctors Fee agreement

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Looks like the shooting community is about to be shafted yet again.

Statement from BASC.

BASC opposes new Home Office proposals to make every gun owner pay a fee to their GP when applying for a shotgun or firearm certificate.

Following a meeting on Tuesday with Nick Hurd, the minister responsible for firearm licensing, BASC understands the Home Office plans to abandon the current system agreed in 2016.

This decision follows a campaign of non-cooperation by the British Medical Association (BMA) to the agreement on improving medical involvement in the licensing system reached following extensive negotiations by the Medical Evidence Working Group, which included representatives of the Home Office, police, the shooting community and doctors.

Christopher Graffius, BASC’s director of communications, said: “This will be regarded by the shooting community as a betrayal by government.

“It will discriminate against those who require a firearm as a tool of their job, damage participation in shooting sports and its benefits to the country and alienate a community which is a natural supporter of the government a month before the local elections.”

The proposals will see the Home Office renege on the agreement reached in 2016 which stated that applicants were not required to pay a fee to GPs for their response to an initial police medical letter sent on application. It ensured that applicants would not be disadvantaged by a GP’s refusal to provide medical information.

It was also agreed that GPs would implement a system that saw them add an encoded ‘marker’ to the medical records of those who own guns. The shooting community considered this a sensible step towards ensuring public safety.

While the Home Office does not keep records, BASC believes less than one per cent of initial firearms licensing applicants are rejected on medical grounds.

Mr Graffius added: “BASC has been told by the Home Office that it is planning to insist every firearms certificate holder consults their GP and pays a fee on application and renewal of their certificate.

“The figures are not yet clear, but this will be in addition to the fee already payable to the police and could increase the total cost of an application by more than 50 per cent.

“This is an abandonment of risk management in the licensing system, may contravene Treasury rules and is completely disproportionate because we believe that less than one per cent of certificates are rejected on medical grounds.

“These proposals will damage the relationship between the shooting community and the government.

“Agreement was reached by all parties, including the doctors, who sat around the table for many, many hours before approving the licensing scheme in 2016.

“If these proposals are introduced without consultation, it will reflect badly on both the government and the medical profession and, in the eyes of the shooting community, erode confidence in both.”

BASC had previously asked the Home Office to reconvene the Medical Evidence Working Group in an attempt to strike an agreement with the medical profession that would satisfy all stakeholders.

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It's a slap in the face for common sense and the Home office and Police seem to have deliberately engineered this outcome knowing full well that what was supposedly agreed in 2016, wasn't really agreed at all by GPs.  It's one thing to have markers on your records (and entirely sensibly imho) and quite another to have GPs writing reports on suitability for holding a certificate, which leaves a massive grey area that the police are free to drive a double decker bus through if they feel so inclined.  Anyone see the real issue with the H/O proposals?  Well, many GPs will rightly argue that they are not trained nor qualified to comment on a patient's mental health for example, so will naturally not take the risk and propose that a qualified professional in the area assesses and reports on said individual.  Guess who pays for that?

This has the hallmarks of becoming deeply flawed legislation that different forces will apply differently, and which different NHS trusts or practices will approach differently.  Best outcome is if the GP agrees to and provides a report which is caveated wrt the limits of the GPs expertise in the areas being reported on.  Worst case is a lengthy and costly delay to acquiring renewals or even being refused on grounds that cannot be substantiated with any certainty.

Time we all wrote to our MPs.

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Just the same as it has been in Scotland since April 2016

I hope, given that there are many more FAC/SGC holders in England and Wales than in Scotland, that someone who is refused a grant or renewal of an FAC or SGC purely on the grounds of the police not getting a response to the initial GP letter will actually mount a legal challenge to this.

 

Cheers

 

Bruce

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As far as I'm aware, the GPs are not initially being asked for any kind of report, but rather a brief statement or checklist, based on facts in their medical notes, confirming the absence of certain illnesses, and perhaps also of other overt causes of concern with repsect to firearms ownership.

I'm not aware that anyone has yet made a case as to why this should suddenly have become necessary to safeguard the public, as AFAIK GPs have always been under obligation to advise the police of medical concerns with respect to lawful firearms owners.

BASC rather rashly agreed to a system where any further reports required after the initial questionnaire would be chargeable by the medico to the applicant. Not a good decision, I think, for it seems to me that applicants have already paid their share of this process as laid down by statute (which, let us not forget, is not for the applicants' benefit - but rather for the benefit of the public as a whole).

If the police and the HO think medical reports of various kinds are a proportionate solution to some public safety problem related to FAC/SGC applications, they should have the courage of their convictions and make a case to justify the necessity of the reports, and so get them funded from the public purse.

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The cynic in me thinks there are two reasons behind this shift;

1. We all know the Gov despises the shooting community as a whole, so it's just yet another two fingers...simply because they can! 

2. Following the recent announcement that NHS staff pay is due to increase, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a small, but still tasty, carrot to dangle before GP's eyes ahead of renegotiating their pay agreements. The Gov are possibly thinking that if GP's get a little extra butter for their bread on the side, for no additional expense to the Treasury, then happy days. Yet another bargaining chip to bring to the negotiating table.

Of course, all the above can simply be explained to the public via the usual pantomime "doing what's best for the public interest concerning firearms safety". With the recent and continued truly tragic episodes across the pond, they'll be seen to have ultimate cause and justification to proceed with these changes. 

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I'm not sure what the government thinks about shooters. In many ways it doesn't matter, because the implacable enemies of the public ownership of firearms in this country are demonstrably the Police and the Home Office.

GP practices are certainly keen on increasing their income - but I don't think that the amount by which this measure will increase any particular practices' income is likely to be much of a bargaining chip. Apart from anything else, they'll actually have to do a bit of work for it.

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