When a group of friends got together to found MedCert, it was because they identified a need. Now they have discovered it’s an even bigger issue than they supposed…
Over the 20 months we’ve been operational, MedCert has spoken to a huge number of people who have been unable to obtain the necessary medical check required by many firearms licensing units as part of the renewal or grant process.
For some, the fee charged by their GP surgery was simply prohibitive: for example, one gentleman attempting to renew a shotgun certificate told us his doctor had sent him an invoice for £470 + VAT, which was accompanied by a note saying he would have to pay this sum again when his FAC was due for renewal the following year.
Many others had gone to their surgery and simply been refused—or had patiently waited for several months to then be told their doctor wouldn’t complete the form because they are conscientious objectors to shooting. One chap, from South Wales, was given our telephone number from a friend and rang us in tears, explaining that he had been shooting since he was a boy, had held a licence for over 60 years and was terrified he would now lose access to the sport he loved for the lack of a single piece of paper.
These kinds of stories, which had been in the shooting media and forums for some time, were the reason we founded MedCert—we wanted to create an easy-to-use alternative which, for a fixed fee of £60, would source the client’s medical records and create the relevant licensing proforma, all within an average turnaround time of 6 weeks. We wanted to create a safe haven for anyone lost in the licensing system, with a clear path to follow and a team always at the end of the phone to answer any queries.
The group of friends who initially worked on the idea was well-placed to start such a service: Bruce, a doctor, Daryn, a management consultant and Caroline, a specialist in healthcare management. We had all been shooting (and missing) together for the best part of a decade and wanted to play our part in fixing a problem affecting a sport we loved. We didn’t quite appreciate that starting the business would reduce the amount of free time we had to actually go shooting, but it’s all for a good cause!
MedCert launched on 1 August 2019, having spent about a year prior to this assembling the wider team and checking that we would be providing a truly useful service. We were fortunate that many firearms teams across the country took the time to speak to us and help us understand the nuances of the process.
Almost from the moment we launched we were inundated, not just with orders but also with people who simply wanted someone to talk to about the process and the difficulties they faced. Posting off the first completed medical proforma to a client was a proud moment for all of us, as was partnering with organisations like the CPSA and Countryside Alliance early on to offer their members a discount on our service.
We are all, of course, aware of the digital divide and how it particularly affects those in rural communities who do not have access to the opportunities and connectivity afforded to those elsewhere. But sometimes it is one thing to know it, and quite another thing to do anything about it.
As a business which was set up first and foremost as one operating online—as much for our own convenience as our customers’—MedCert was initially slow to factor the digital divide into our activities, and had to adapt quickly to the needs of those who either cannot or will not use the internet.
We have been grateful for the opportunity to do so, and are constantly delighted by how much good for our community we can do simply with the facilities at our disposal. It is amazing, for example, how much difference simply posting a set of the home office forms, which most shooters simply print off from their force’s website, can make.
We are also overawed by the strength of the shooting community, and over the past 20 months have seen numerous examples of individuals supporting their shooting friends through the process in instances where they lack the facility to complete their paperwork themselves.
Digit is all
Being a digital-first business, however, MedCert was well placed to meet the challenges posed by Covid-19 and able to continue operating much as before. We differ from the businesses which came after us in that we help individuals obtain their medical records as well as ensuring that a UK GP completes their medical check, and one of the challenges of the pandemic was working with the surgeries to ensure these records were obtained in a timely manner.
Surgeries have professed themselves overwhelmed by the pandemic, and it has only been through a combination of our team’s prior experience with the NHS and dogged persistence that we have managed to work with them during this period.
While some GP practices are excellent, the daily proof we have of the fragmentation of individuals’ medical records and the disorganisation of some areas of primary care beggars belief, and we have found ourselves adding value back into the NHS in unexpected ways. This all, of course, takes up a considerable amount of administration time, but we include everything in our fixed fee, no matter how much legwork it takes to achieve a result that satisfies the licensing requirements.
A challenge for our whole industry, which has been thrown into relief by this new licensing process, is how we talk about health, both physical and mental. Every day the MedCert team speaks to shooters who are concerned that some health problem, no matter whether current or in the distant past, will deprive them of the chance to gain or keep their licence. We are able to reassure them that this is not the case, and that you by no means need a ‘clean sheet’ to get a licence, but also stress that honesty is paramount.
The worry, of course, is that people will refrain from seeking medical help for fear that it will cause problems with their licence, and it is incumbent on all of us to spread the message that this is not the right course of action. We know that shooting has many health benefits, let’s make sure that a supportive community continues to be one of them.
If you’d like to learn more about MedCert please visit medcert.co.uk—don’t forget that GTA members benefit from a 10% discount code on any order.