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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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