After talks between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the British Medical Association (BMA), GPs have agreed to breach their duty of confidentiality to gun-owning patients.

Doctors have agreed to tell the police if they believe that a gun-owner?s mental health has deteriorated to the extent that they have become a danger to themselves or the public.

In a statement, the BMA said: ?Where doctors know that a patient has a firearm and, in their view, presents a risk of harm to themselves or others this information can be disclosed without consent.?

In another controversial move, all medical records of patients holding firearms licences could be ?flagged? as part of the agreement.

The BMA indicated that it did not want doctors to be made responsible for revoking firearms certificates.

However, firearms guidance advises police to revoke a licence if a doctor declares the holder unsafe.

BASC?s Simon Clarke expressed concern the agreement would lead to gun owners with a record of any mental health problem having their firearms certificate withdrawn.

He said: ?If it became a default position that any mental health issue causes your licence to be revoked, that would be a potential danger.?

He went on to link the announcement with the recent killings by Derrick Bird, saying: ?The issue of flagging medical records has become more prominent after the Cumbria murders.?

No evidence has emerged that Bird had declared any health problems before his rampage, nor did the respective inquiries into the Hungerford and Dunblane massacres suggest that doctors were made aware that the perpetrators were suffering from ill health.

Currently the law requires an applicant for a firearms licence to declare whether they have any health problems affecting their fitness to hold a gun licence and give permission for police to approach their doctor in these circumstances.

ACPO has been calling for a change to this guidance since the case in Shropshire of Christopher Foster who shot his wife and daughter before setting fire to their house and dying in the blaze in 2008.

Foster had told his GP he felt suicidal.

BASC, which has been involved in discussions with both ACPO and the BMA on this issue for some time, will argue for an appeals system in the event of the agreement being finalised.

Simon Clarke said: ?If an agreement of this kind were reached we would want to see a clearly mapped out mechanisim for appeal for anyone whose licence was revoked on the grounds that a GP declared them unsafe.

It is important to stress, however, that at this stage the agreement is by no means a done deal.?

Tim Bonner, of the CA, said: ?Linking the diagnosis of serious mental problems with the suspension of a firearms licence would be in the interests of the public and the shooting community.?

He added: ?Rejecting any such proposal out of hand would be unwise.?

During discussions doctors voiced fears that an agreement could deter gun owners who were suffering mental illness from seeking medical help and that it constituted a breach of their fundamental duty of confidentiality as well.

Practical problems with the scheme also remain.

Police are concerned about the security of information on gun-holding patients and there are fears that criminals might exploit flagged medical records to access firearms.

Further negotiations between ACPO and the BMA are planned but it is not known when the agreement will be finalized.

Talk to other readers about doctors and police sharing records without patients’ consent.