BMA firearms guidance

Date sent: Wednesday 16 November 2016

To ALL BBOLMC Practices

Issue date: 17.11.16

Last week the BMA firearms guidance was taken down from its website and subsequently replaced with wording that has proved controversial

  • The change followed unfavourable comments made by a coroner regarding BMA advice, following which external QC opinion was sought.
  • That opinion suggested that BMA guidance at that time may have left the BMA and GPs vulnerable legally
  • There was consequently a decision (made at BMA level last week) to take down the guidance.
  • This decision was taken on the basis that it is clearly not acceptable for BMA to provide knowingly incorrect advice that may put members at risk.
  • You will be aware that the whole issue of firearm guidance has hitherto been dealt with by the BMA Professional Fees Committee (PFC).
  • The PC Executive recognise the difficulties this issue has caused for GPs
  • GPC now has legal interpretation of the QC opinion and this has informed the interim guidance that now appears on the BMA website, which has been further updated to clarify the wording surrounding conscientious objection.
  • The webpage advice concludes by saying:

"GPs must engage in the process of firearms licensing when requested to do so. Failure to do so could place them at professional risk. 

In terms of their contractual obligations, GPs must cooperate with and facilitate statutory functions relating to the process.

The contract also sets out that a reasonable fee may be demanded for the services provided as part of that process.

The demand for a reasonable fee may form a condition, which if not fulfilled, means the GP can refuse to engage further in the firearms certification process.

A GP may have a genuine conscientious objection, in which case and subject to GMC guidance they should refer the patient appropriately"

The regulation on demanding a fee can be found at

The conclusion of the letter from the GPC Executive is:

1)  That the GP must engage with the process and must reply to the police.
That reply may be to demand a fee for the completion of the report. If the police refuse to pay that fee then the GP may withhold his/her report. It does not therefore equate to providing the police with free reports.

2)  The advice around conscientious objection and appropriate referral is simply a restatement of the GMC position, and will be the subject of further work to clarify the position for single-handed GPs and those situations where all GPs within a practice hold a conscientious objection. 

3)  GPC will now work on a clear FAQs sheet to explain in simple terms the practical advice that doctors should follow when they receive a firearms communication from the police.
The GPC Exec team are also conscious that there are other questions regarding competence, and also the slightly paradoxical outcomes of the advice relating to conscientious objection, that require further legal opinion. We believe that while PFC has dealt with these issues thus far, these wider "non fees" concerns should form part of GPCs responsibility towards GPs. We shall therefore be writing to the Home Office to express our concerns regarding the safety and robustness of this process and to explore “non fee” issues.


Dr Paul Roblin


Tel: 07799116597 or 01628 475727

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