Medical devices: information for users and patients

Information and guidance on a range of medical devices for users and patients.

What is a medical device?

A medical device is a healthcare product or piece of equipment that a person uses for a medical purpose. It is not a medicine or drug. Medical devices can diagnose, monitor or treat disease and help people with physical impairments become more independent.

Medical devices that people buy for personal use include:

  • blood glucose meters
  • blood pressure monitors
  • condoms
  • contact lenses and solutions
  • pregnancy test and other self-test kits
  • wheelchairs

CE marking

Medical devices must have a CE mark by law. This mark means that, provided you use it correctly, the device will work properly and is safe.

No device is 100% safe or reliable., The known risks of complications must be balanced in comparison to the benefits of the device, as stated by the manufacturer.

If you have any questions about weighing up the pros and cons of using a device for personal use, please speak to a healthcare professional.

Buying medical devices for personal use

Before you buy the device

Before you buy a medical device for your own use, it’s important to:

  • make sure it is suitable for your medical condition
  • check it has a CE mark
  • check if the manufacturer’s address is on the device or the packaging
  • get a demonstration of how to use the device – especially if it’s a complicated device or procedure

If you’re buying online, please see the following guidance:

Before using the device

Before you start using the device, it’s important to:

  • check the device is not damaged
  • make sure you understand and follow the instructions
  • register the device with the manufacturer and fill in any warranty or guarantee cards so that the manufacturer can contact you if there is a fault or safety problem with the device
  • make sure you have everything you need, for example, find out if the device needs anything else to make it work such as test strips, batteries and so on

Remember also to:

  • keep the device in good condition by following instructions about service and maintenance and keep a record of the service history
  • store the device according to the manufacturer’s instructions - for some devices the wrong temperature or humidity can affect how it works or give you wrong results

Problems and troubleshooting

If you have a problem with the device, report it to MHRA using the Yellow Card scheme.

Problems that we’d like to hear about include:

  • the device was damaged when you received it
  • there isn’t a CE mark on the device or the user manual or packaging
  • the instructions aren’t clear
  • the manufacturer’s address isn’t on the device or packaging

Do not use the device if you are worried about its quality, for example if it doesn’t feel quite right to use as described in the instructions. Contact your healthcare professional about this and inform the manufacturer and report it to MHRA by Yellow Card.

Contact the distributor or manufacturer to arrange for repairs if your device breaks down. If you think the breakdown might have affected your health, you should report this to the MHRA using the Yellow Card.

These reports could help manufacturers improve their design and product information, and also help the MHRA improve the safety of devices.

If you are worried about a result given by a medical device, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse.

Blood glucose meters

Blood glucose meters are commonly used by people with diabetes for monitoring the glucose levels in their blood. They are normally recommended by a healthcare professional such as a GP or a diabetes specialist.

Blood glucose meters mostly use test strips to measure glucose levels and there are several types of meters with different features. The meters can also store your previous test results for review.

Your healthcare professional will help you choose the best meter for you. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular meter, these are outlined in the booklet provided with the meter. A member of your diabetes care team should train you correctly before you start using your meter. It is important that you use your meter correctly to make sure your blood glucose result is accurate.

Safety tips

Only use a blood glucose meter that you have been trained to use. If you intend to purchase your meter online, please refer to our guidance

Make sure to wash and dry your hands before testing.

Use only the test strips listed by the manufacturer for your device. Don’t use test strips from a different manufacturer even if they fit your meter because they won’t work.

Every time you start to use a new box of test strips, make sure you complete the required system check for your device using the control solutions provided. If you do not have the control solutions you can request these from the manufacturer.

Make sure you undertake display checks to prevent misinterpreting the result and always check your test strips are within their expiry date. You will find the expiry date printed on the container.

Make sure the lid of your test strips is sealed tightly, and stored in the original vial, as moisture from the air may affect the accuracy of the result.

The correct unit of measurement for blood glucose monitoring in the UK is mmol/L. Make sure your meter is set to this unit of measurement and check this regularly.

Blood glucose meters are sensitive to extremes of temperature and altitude differences. In these conditions, don’t ignore any symptoms you may have even if you obtain a normal reading.

Always pay attention to any error codes, including HI and LO prompts your meter may show on the display window. If these persist, you should contact the manufacturer’s customer care line for customer support and your diabetes care team.

You should make sure you complete the warranty cards and return them to the manufacturer. This registers your device and means you can be contacted if your device needs to be changed, for example if it needs to be recalled for safety reasons.

Make sure you know how to clean/disinfect you meter adequately/safely as per the manufacturer’s instructions. There are several types of meters with different features. It is important to you use your meter correctly to ensure your blood glucose result is accurate.

We encourage patients, manufacturers, distributors, professional users and members of the public to report suspected issues to us via the Yellow Card Scheme.

Contact lenses

Contact lenses help correct several eyesight problems, including long-sightedness (hypermetropia), short-sightedness (myopia) and astigmatism. Contact lenses are medical devices and so they are regulated by medical devices legislation. Cosmetic (zero-powered) contact lenses will be covered by the same regulations by 2020.

Most people can wear contact lenses safely but if you don’t follow the instructions for use you can increase your risk of eye infections, irritation and discomfort .

MHRA has received reports of infections that have led to sight loss and sight reduction due to the bacteria Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK). Moorfields Eye Hospital has a patient information leaflet which gives the rate of AK infection in the UK population of contact lens wearers as 2 in 100,000 users. One of the most common reasons for the infection is exposure to water (for example, touching the lens with wet hands, showering or swimming with lenses). Good lens aftercare is essential to reduce the likelihood of this infection.

Buying contact lenses

In the UK, only registered medical practitioners, optometrists and dispensing opticians (with suitable qualifications) may prescribe contact lenses. Don’t buy lenses without their professional advice. Contact lens prescriptions are valid until the next suggested date of examination. Visit your eye care specialist regularly and always follow their advice.

Safety tips

Follow the instructions that come with your lenses. If you don’t have the instructions, ask your eye care specialist for a copy or look on the manufacturer’s website. Lens aftercare is essential to prevent injury and infection. The instructions for use will have useful information. Also check the NHS Choices and Love your Lenses websites.

Keep the packaging while you use the lenses, as you may need the lot (batch) number if you develop a bad reaction. Take the lenses out and see your eye care specialist if you get eye pain, blurred vision, swelling or unusual redness or if you think you may have an eye infection. Take your contact lenses, lens case and solution with you to the appointment. Ask your eye care specialist about wearing contact lenses for sports activities (especially water-based activities) to prevent injury and infection.

Common symbols explained

There are several common symbols used with medical devices that might appear on the packaging of your contact lenses. We have a poster that explains them.

There is also a new symbol, warning against contact with water, which some manufacturers of contact lenses are starting to use. The British Contact Lens Association has a Do’s & Don’ts Factsheet with this symbol.

Report a problem

You can report any problems with your contact lenses to us through the Yellow Card Scheme. This scheme is vital in helping us monitor the safety of all healthcare products in the UK to ensure they are acceptably safe for patients and users, and take action if any trends associated to the safety or efficacy are identified.

Other guidance:

NHS Choices - How to use self-test kits safely

NHS Choices - Get online: take control of your health

Published 11 February 2019