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Independents' Day

Inspectors launch probe into GP practice weighing scales

Exclusive Trading standards inspectors in one area of the country have launched a drive to scrutinise the accuracy of all weighing scales in GP practices.

The officers from Leicester City are checking scales for accuracy at 35 practices following ‘concerns raised nationally about the dangers to patients of using non-compliant weighing scales'.

Trading standards inspectors made appointments to check the scales – often on staff training days when patients were not at the surgery - with Leicester City Council claiming that they could pose a risk when calculating the 'corresponding dosage of medicines needed'.

They did 25 inspections before Christmas and a spokesperson for the council said: ‘The testing work has generally been received positively by GP surgeries, who understand the importance of using reliable, accurate equipment for patient care.’

But GP leaders branded the exercise as 'pointless'. 

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the BMA GP Committee’s IT committee, said: 'I have actually read the relevant regulations and it is clear this trading standards officer’s interpretation of them is way off the scale.

'As a highly trained and skilled professional I understand that patients carry around with them variable quantities of removable ballast, clothes on the outside and other materials in various internal voids. Shifts in these make super accurate scales pointless. The bottom line is GPs can buy and use whatever scales they want.’

Dr Anu Rau, Leicester LMC medical committee chair, said that GPs in the area were not sure what had prompted the investigation, but that the LMC was in talks with trading standards officers and that she hoped a resolution can be found.

Dr Rau said: ‘All surgeries have class three or class four weighing scales. Class three scale are more precise but we don’t need that level of precision for medical reasons. We don’t prescribe based on weight, you’d have to be weighed naked to get a really accurate reading anyway. All our instruments are calibrated in accordance with CQC requirements.

’If trading standards say we need Class 3 scales then we will of course want to do what is best for the patient, but this is still taxpayers’ money and we will need medical reasons for doing so. We are not mandated by trading standards and I hope that they will have a conversation with us about this. We were also wondering why this inspection is only happening in Leicester?’

Why put the screws on scales?

In 2014, the National Measurement and Regulation Office  ran a project tested medical weighing equipment used by doctors’ surgeries, health centres and mobile health visitors.

Their inspectors found that 23% of equipment was non complaint and ‘medical professionals lacked basic knowledge to identify if they were receiving a quality calibration service or to check the ongoing accuracy of equipment’.

According to the Care Quality Commission’s senior national GP advisor Professor Nigel Sparrow: ‘GP practices are responsible for ensuring their medical devices are maintained appropriately: this includes maintaining and repairing all medical devices correctly, including reconditioning and refurbishment.’

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Readers' comments (22)

  • CQC should deal with more important things - a weight discrepancy of a few grams or even a pound or two does not require heavy battery and turning the world upside down. Most of the GPs will be keeping an eye on the scales as they do on their instruments but this hue and cry is disproportionate. Maybe they should also check the height measuring scales and every dipstick which has not been bought off a Tory sponsor?

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  • Have they nothing better to do with their time than getting involved in things they don't understand.

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  • I thought we were leaving the EU and becoming more sensible with rules

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  • Sounds completely “anal” to me. Annual system for calibration was good enough for my last CQC.

    Surely have better things to do?

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  • Most home scales are not acurate but are reproducible - that is if you weigh the same today and tomorrow then the reading will be the same - put on weight and it will read more, lose weight and it’ll read less. Helpful if one wants to monitor loss or gain.

    I have NEVER weighed an adult naked - let patients do that at home! However from personal experience weighing before or after having a dump and a pee as well as before a meal makes a big difference making accuracy irrelevant!!

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  • So I need the weight of an 18 year old woman as I'm prescribing her the pill.

    A Ask her weight
    B Weigh her in clothes she is wearing
    C Stip her naked and weigh her

    A Negligent--she may lie
    B Negligent--inaccurate way to weigh
    C Excellent professionalism

    And that my honour is my defence

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  • April 1st has come early this year

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  • Incredible! Horrible! Nothing else to do? For instance control if the senior responsible in A&E is accessible?

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  • Incredible! Horrible! Nothing else to do? For instance control if the senior responsible in A&E is accessible?

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  • Rx - More regulation! The universal panacea. And perfect to keep people busy and distracted from more salient issues. Never mind the cost.
    I can only imagine hordes of GPs planning an even earlier retirement.

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