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Scale reads height, weight and BMI

A high-quality height and weight scale is essential to meet obesity targets.

There is no doubt that we are going to have trouble meeting the GMS contract targets on obesity if we continue to use the equipment we have in our practice at present.

Even if we just go easy on ourselves and stick to measuring patients' height and weight, our equipment is a little unpredictable; for example, our height rod is made of wood, seems to have woodworm and is only calibrated in inches.

Reading the specifications of the Seca 704 column scale, it certainly seems to fit the bill. It can weigh people up to 250kg and it has an attached measuring rod (the Seca 220), so it can measure patients' height in millimetres or inches.

The unit arrives requiring some assembly and it should be noted that the base of the scale is extremely heavy, although this is a marker of its quality. In view of this, it proved slightly awkward to attach the vertical column to the base and the thread of the screws did not match perfectly.

However, with a little muscle (of which I have a good deal, hidden under adipose tissue), I managed to put the column scale together and secure the black cowling in place.

The measuring rod faces backwards, through an ingenious slide device.

There are two simple connectors on the underside of the scale, which must be attached first, then the battery compartment can be clipped into place.

The scale is powered by six AA batteries which, I understand, is sufficient to weigh 16,000 people (not all at once) with one battery pack.

I tried to get my six-year-old to test this theory, by asking her to do a step aerobic workout on the scale, but unfortunately, she rapidly became bored.

As you may have guessed, this scale is your modern-day electronic version.

The base is large, low level and non-slip.

The only thing that it lacks is a print-out, which I understand is available with other models in the range.

Once set up, it should continue to read true, but it is possible to make fine adjustments if needed (perhaps for those patients who would like to be taller or shorter).

Accurate readings

Other features on the scale are a spirit level, which is vital for accurate readings, an on-off switch labelled 'start' and, fortunately, an auto cut-off feature. You can also calibrate the scale to zero, for example, with a mother standing on it, then weigh her holding her baby, leaving you with the weight of the baby; clever, I thought.

You can freeze the weight on the screen for further reference and there is a function to enter the patient's height, with the result that the unit will calculate the BMI for you.

In conclusion, the Seca 704 scale needs setting up, but it only takes five minutes and four screws. Following that, you have an easy-to-use, tough and functional height and weight tool that calculates BMI at the press of a button.

- An independent review by Dr Peter Ilves, a GP in south-west London

- Equipment supplied by Williams Medical Supplies plc

Model Seca 704 digital column scale: £499.38
Seca 220 height measuring rod: £66.98
Special offer for GP readers See page 62.

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