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CQC Essentials: Maintenance of medical equipment

During inspections the CQC wants to see evidence of reliable systems, processes and practices in place to keep people safe. This includes using and maintaining equipment and ensuring that equipment is not out-of-date.

This article relates to the CQC key question: Is your practice safe? 

Out-of-date equipment

This could include, for example needles, syringes, and defibrillator pads. If these are out-of-date they are unsafe to be used. If they are present in the practice, there is the potential that they could be inadvertently used to administer drugs to patients or used for venepuncture. Our inspectors will regard out-of-date equipment with the same significance as out-of-date medicines.

Maintaining equipment

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.

Provision, maintenance and repair of medical devices also forms part of risk assessment activity under the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (management regulations). The Health and Safety Executive publish comprehensive guidance on risk assessment.

Practices should have a system in place to ensure regular and appropriate inspection, calibration, maintenance and replacement of equipment. Regular cleaning and checking of individual items of equipment should include:

  • checking for dirt, damage or contamination
  • ensuring additional equipment is available, for example sealed and in-date adult and paediatric defibrillator pads.

Individual manufacturer’s guidance should be followed regarding frequency of calibration and electrical testing. Inaccurate readings from faulty or poorly calibrated machines can impact on quality of care and treatment. For example errors in blood pressure determination could result in patients receiving treatment they do not need, or increasing their clinical risk if blood pressure is underestimated.

Equipment that should be subject to regular checks includes:

  • fridge(s) used for storage of medicines (including thermometers)
  • other thermometers
  • nebuliser compressors
  • spirometers
  • pulse oximeters
  • sphygmomanometers
  • weighing scales
  • electronic ear irrigators

Staff responsibilities and training

Practices should:

  • be clear about:
    • which member(s) of staff have responsibility for medical equipment
    • the intervals between inspections
    • and the system for reporting faults
  • maintain a log of all medical equipment used.

Healthcare professionals should have received training to operate medical equipment. They have a responsibility to check the suitability of the equipment they are using and report any faulty equipment.

  • Professor Nigel Sparrow is senior national GP advisor and responsible officer at the CQC

More CQC resources

Picture: iStock

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