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Meeting the CQC's expectations on equipment

How practices can ensure their policies for medical and non-medical equipment meet the standard expected by the CQC. By Donna Hickey

The CQC standard for equipment also covers non-medical equipment such as fire alarms
The CQC standard for equipment also covers non-medical equipment such as fire alarms

As part of the CQC's requirements, healthcare providers must ensure that people who use services or who work in or visit the premises are not at risk of harm from unsafe or unsuitable equipment. Equipment should also be comfortable, and fully meet the needs of those using it.

At first glance this may seem fairly straightforward and self-explanatory in a medical sense, but providers must remember that this applies to ALL equipment within the practice.

This includes everything that’s inside treatment rooms as well as all the equipment that’s used on the 'business side', including the likes of laptops, computers and telephones, as well as security equipment, fire alarms and any equipment used in communal areas such as the patient waiting room.

As with so many aspects of CQC regulation, good organisation is essential. GP practices need to demonstrate they have a system in place for each piece of equipment, along with any relevant records documenting servicing, validation, staff training and so forth.

Risk assessments

Naturally, safety is a very important consideration, and as such CQC inspectors will be keen to ensure practices have carried out sufficient risk assessments on each and every piece of equipment used within the premises. Practices should also keep full records and evidence supporting their efforts on site and ready for inspection.

While regular maintenance and testing will naturally be a priority for medical equipment, again practices should remember that the CQC will also expect this to apply to ALL equipment within the practice. There should therefore be a system set in place where equipment such as fire alarms, security alarms and so forth are tested on a regular basis in line with manufacturer guidance, and should also ensure that all staff are inducted in their proper use.

Contingency plans

In terms of availability, the CQC will be assessing to check that equipment is provided in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of people who use the service. Practices will also be required to have sufficient contingency planning in place, where appropriate, and should consider what would happen if for example the phones go down, or if the practice gets broken into.

Business equipment such as telephones and computer systems are just as important as medical equipment here, so GP practices should be particularly aware of the full scope of the availability criteria in this regard.

Suitability of equipment

Suitability of equipment is also key. For practices to fulfil the CQC's expectations, they should ensure that all equipment is both up-to-date, and fit for purpose. This includes making sure that no modifications have been made to a piece of equipment and that it is being used as it was intended.

To fully meet the criteria here, practices should ensure they keep an active asset register. This register should be updated regularly and should include listings for every piece of equipment on the premises, with details outlining when it was purchased, any validation or certification completed, as well as information on checks, serial numbers and who to call in the event of a breakdown.

Many healthcare providers fall down on this requirement when it comes to CQC inspections, so it is therefore vitally important that GP practices make sure that if they don’t have a register, that they start one immediately.

Keep records

Ultimately, every part of CQC regulation is centred on providing the very best patient care. With regards to the safety, availability and suitability of equipment, it is particularly important that practices keep excellent records on all equipment. Practices should also bear in mind that there are specific stipulations on how long records must be preserved.

Training

A final very important consideration in regards to equipment is training. Under Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), employers must ensure full staff induction for all equipment and must keep adequate records of any training given to staff members, any refresher training and so on. If the equipment is specifically a medical device there should usually also be manufacturer training, and information regarding how to report an incident, or file a report.

As with most areas of CQC compliance, evidence is key. With a systematic series of processes put in place to record and track all equipment within the premises – and the training of staff – practices will go a long way to meeting all the necessary requirements that the CQC has laid out.

  • Donna Hickey is head of compliance at dbg, and is responsible for all aspects of compliance for dbg service provision, delivery and content. www.thedbg.co.uk

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