GPs should be paid fees to do firearm checks on their patients, leading doctors have said.
Police can contact the GPs of people who apply for a firearm certificate to check whether there is a history of illnesses including depression or dementia.
But doctors have said they should be paid for the service because the process places “undue burden” on GP practices.
Medics at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting in Belfast are to discuss recent revisions to firearms licensing arrangements.
Dr John Canning, a Middlesbrough GP and chairman of the BMA’s professional fees committee, said: “We are doing this work on top of a normal day, we are doing this at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm.
“It can take from 10 minutes to an hour. We are busy enough doing the day job, curing the sick.
“There are resource implications. We have to pay NHS staff to do the work.”
He added: “We are not particularly happy about providing an opinion. I don’t have the mental health experience.
“People would rather not do it because it’s an additional job at the end of the day.”
He said there are around 7,500 licences issued each year.
GPs in urban areas would be less likely to be affected by the new arrangements but those in rural areas may have to complete a number of checks each year.
Dr Canning estimated that the checks could take the same time as six appointments for patients, saying: “It’s half a dozen appointments that it will take up. That’s six people who don’t get seen.”
Mothers Against Violence spokeswoman Patsy McKie, whose son Dorrie was shot dead aged 20 in Manchester in 1999, said: “It is important guns do not get into the wrong hands. Doctors are already paid by the state and should not be paid more for handing this sort of information over to the police and Home Office.”
The new information-sharing process between GPs and police came into force on April 1 to ensure that those licensed to possess firearm and shotgun certificates are medically fit.
GPs have also been told to keep a record of patients who own a gun – and to inform police if any of these people develop mental health problems such as depression.
Practices are supposed to have a reminder on the patient record so that the GP is aware the person is a firearm certificate holder.
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