Should you pay? Or not? A reader needs to know. Bill Harriman gives the legal case.
Q: While applying to renew my firearms and shotgun certificates, I was asked by my GP practice to pay a £15 charge to release my records to the police. It was my understanding that if the police ask for this information they were to pay for any costs, and that any references upon my suitability should be given freely?
Is the practice right to charge me for it? I have paid the sum in question as it is not all that much money in the greater scheme of things and I wanted my certificates to be dealt with quickly, but I am fully aware that my local practice is “anti gun” and I worry that this kind of behaviour sets a precedent for increasing costs and pressure on applicants in the future.
Bill Harriman advises:
A: Under General Data Protection Regulations your doctor is obliged to release your medical records to you free of charge. You could send them to the police if they felt it necessary to see them.
In your case, the doctor appears to have misunderstood the letter sent by the police under the 2016 agreement reached by the Home Office, British Medical Association, police and shooting groups.
This asked the practice to place an encoded reminder on your record and to say if you suffered from any of the specified medical conditions on it. If the police received no response within 21 days, the certificate would be issued or renewed as the case may be. The doctor was not being asked to give an opinion nor a reference as to your suitability to possess firearms.
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I would contact the practice and ask for your money back. If it will not refund it to you, complain to the Local Medical Committee.
Unfortunately, by rolling over and paying this fee you have not helped the shooting community. Many doctors see shooters as a potential income stream. It is disgraceful that they should put money before public safety by so doing. BASC has learned that one Scottish practice is charging a whopping £375 for this. If you are a member of a shooting organisation, you should always consult its expert staff before paying any fee demanded by a doctor.