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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 04:59 GMT
Fears over faulty hospital scales
By Adam Brimelow
Health correspondent, BBC News

Inaccurate scales could lead to the wrong treatment
Patients at hospitals throughout the UK could be at risk because staff are using faulty weighing equipment.

In one case, hospital staff used defective bathroom scales to weigh a four-year-old cancer patient in order to calculate her radiation dosage.

Now trading standards officers are to check scales at hospitals after initial visits found many were inaccurate.

They also found equipment was missing and staff did not have access to the right scales for specific tasks.

In the case of the four-year-old cancer patient the error was spotted in time.

Children metabolise drugs differently from adults and therefore it is crucial that accurate measuring equipment is being used
Dr Simon Lenton
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

But there are fears that others are receiving wrong dosages due to faulty equipment.

The National Medical Weighing Project will run for one year, starting in April.

Staff training

Officers will check that all weighing equipment is accurate, legal and fit for purpose, focusing particularly on cancer and children's' departments.

They will also ensure that staff are properly trained.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, chairman of the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), said: "Going into hospital for treatment can be a worrying time for many people, and it is important that patients have full confidence that they are being given the right dose of medicine or other treatments.

"The new National Medical Weighing Project will give patients the peace of mind that they are receiving the correct level of medication and will help hospitals iron out any problems involving the accuracy of their weighing equipment."

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it was "extremely concerned".

Dr Simon Lenton, the college's vice president for health services, said: "It is vital that both height and weight are correctly calculated when determining appropriate drug dosages.

"Children metabolise drugs differently from adults and therefore it is crucial that accurate measuring equipment is being used."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "It is for each local NHS trust to determine the equipment they require to provide safe services to their patients.

"Patient safety and appropriate clinical care is of the utmost importance. We would expect clinicians to use the right equipment and not compromise patient safety."

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