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Firearms licensing GP letter saga continues

Applicants have voiced their displeasure at glaring inconsistencies when it comes to doctors’ notes and the amount charged for them, writes Matt Cross in Shooting Times

shotgun certificate renewal by GP

Firearm and shotgun certificate applicants have hit out at a ‘crazy system’ of inconsistent requirements and charges for doctors’ letters.

Police forces have been increasingly insisting that applicants provide a letter from their GP to confirm there are no health concerns that should prevent them from holding a firearm or shotgun certificate. This is not a service that is covered by the NHS, and so doctors have been billing applicants for the letters. However, frustration is growing both over the disparity of prices charged by surgeries and the varying demands of different police forces.

The legal basis of the policy is hotly disputed; some forces do not insist on applicants supplying a letter, while other forces will not issue a certificate without one. Shooting Times has been told that Northumbria Police has continued to issue certificates without doctors’ letters but that other forces, including neighbouring Police Scotland, insist on a letter to support every application. The COVID-19 pandemic further added to the chaos, with some forces suspending their requirement for doctors’ letters and other forces allowing applicants to postpone obtaining a letter.

After making enquiries with applicants across the country, Shooting Times has found doctors’ surgeries charging amounts from £20 to £140 to issue the letters.

Humberside-based Nicholas Dobson was one of those facing a higher bill when his surgery invoiced him for £104, an amount Mr Dobson described as “an absolute joke”.

In Crewe, Gary Jones refused to pay a bill of £165 and had it reduced to £85 — an outcome that Gary called ‘a little victory’.

The high and inconsistent fees come despite the British Medical Association providing a set of template letters for its members to use. A small number of applicants reported being able to get their doctors’ letters free. Essex-based shooter Malcolm Hill told Shooting Times: “I’m lucky, my doctor just did it and didn’t bill me. I have heard stories of other people being charged well over £100, and I was certainly expecting a bill, but I have never had one.”