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Nigel's surgery 52: Portable appliance testing and calibrating medical equipment

  • Organisations we regulate

We have had a number of queries about what we expect to see in a GP practice relating to their responsibilities to protect staff and patients from the risks associated with:

  • using portable electrical appliances, and
  • calibrating medical equipment.

Portable appliance testing (PAT)

We expect GP practices to provide assurance that they have carried out risk assessments to identify all risks associated with their premises and that they are managing these risks.

What does the law say?

You must maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger, but the law does not say how you must do this or how often. You should decide what level of maintenance is needed according to the risk of an item becoming faulty, and how the equipment is constructed.

You should consider:

  • the increased risk if the equipment isn’t used correctly, isn’t suitable for the job, or is used in a harsh environment; and
  • if the item is not double insulated (for example some kettles are earthed but some pieces of hand-held equipment, such as hairdryers, are usually double insulated).

You are responsible for safely maintaining:

  • any electrical equipment your employees use at work, whether it is their own or supplied by you
  • jointly, any equipment used by your employees that is either leased (eg a photocopier) or provided by a contractor.

You are not responsible for equipment both provided and used by a contractor.

You need to check if any maintenance is needed periodically. How you do this depends on the type of equipment. If a risk is identified, then you need to take action to prevent or control that risk.

Further information

Calibration of Medical Equipment

What does the law say?

Regulation 12: safe care and treatment

2 (e) ensuring that the equipment used by the service provider for providing care or treatment to a service user is safe for such use and is used in a safe way;

(f) where equipment or medicines are supplied by the service provider, ensuring that there are sufficient quantities of these to ensure the safety of service users and to meet their needs;

The World Health Organisation defines medical equipment as:

Medical devices requiring calibration, maintenance, repair, user training and decommissioning – activities usually managed by clinical engineers. Medical equipment is used for the specific purposes of diagnosis and treatment of disease or rehabilitation following disease or injury; it can be used either alone or in combination with any accessory, consumable or other piece of medical equipment. Medical equipment excludes implantable, disposable or single-use medical devices.

Some of the medical equipment that may be found in GP practices include:

  • auroscopes / otoscopes
  • blood glucose monitors
  • blood pressure monitors
  • cholesterol testers
  • class III medical scales
  • height measures
  • smokerlyzers
  • spirometers
  • temperature mapping
  • thermometers
  • vaccine refrigerators

Manufacturer’s instructions may specify particular testing, calibration or adjustment before a medical device is used for the first time, they will also normally include the recommended intervals between calibrations.

This may include where appropriate, using a test device to check:

  • accuracy of physiological measurements
  • accuracy of other outputs
  • dose delivery
  • energy delivery

Tests should be carried out by an adequately trained and appropriately qualified person.

Good records are important in effective device management and should provide evidence of:

  • what the device is
  • where it came from
  • its serial or batch number
  • the maintenance record of the device
  • any training carried out on how to use it properly.

Paper-based systems can be used if you have only a few devices but a computer-based system may be better if you have a number of devices.

Further information

Last updated:
10 August 2017