The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that practices will be allowed to conscientiously object to taking part in the firearm licensing process in its updated guidelines.
Practices have been charged with ensuring that firearm license holders are fit to carry arms since April 2016, which involves GP appointments, fee processing and administrative work.
The BMA is currently working with the Home Office and police representatives to improve the licensing rules as they have noted ‘significant concerns’ about the arrangements.
The association has said it is seeking to reach an agreement that is ‘fair’ and ‘safe’ for practices and the public and noted that the newest guideline is open to revision depending on the outcome of the current discussions.
BMA firearms task and finish group lead Mark Sanford-Wood said: ‘The new firearm licence arrangements have caused significant concern among GPs who have found themselves in a confused and uncertain situation as to how they should proceed.
‘At a time when general practice is under unprecedented pressure, practices need clarity, especially as the work involved in this area for each individual application can be onerous and requires the charging of a fee to cover administration so that funding is not diverted away from patient care.’
Practices or individual staff may want to conscientiously object to engaging in the firearms certification process on grounds of religious or ethical beliefs. The BMA guidelines allow this and indicate that practices will not be obliged to otherwise accommodate the requests by passing them on.
Sanford-Wood said: ‘GMC guidance does require GPs to take reasonable steps to notify their patients of their conscientious objection in advance, and we would advise doctors who hold such beliefs to ensure a clear statement to this effect is placed on their website and on notices in public areas of the practice.
‘In our view conscientious objectors are not required to arrange for alternative provision of such a report (which may itself conflict with their ethical stance), although they may choose to do so,’ he said.