The UK officially departed from the EU on 31 January 2020, with the post-Brexit transition period coming to a close on 1 January 2021.

Medical devices currently sold in the UK can still display the CE mark, something that has been a requirement under EU law since 1985, but medical device companies with products on the UK market now need to plan for how they will obtain a UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA mark).

The UKCA mark is due to become mandatory on 1 July 2023, giving medtech manufacturers two more years to fall into compliance. However, as witnessed during the repeated delays to the EU’s Medical Device Regulation, having extra time to fall into compliance doesn’t necessarily mean every business will be ready when the time comes.

Devices can still be placed onto the UK market using a CE mark until 30 June 2023, but from 1 July all medical devices and in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) will need to have a UKCA mark to be sold.

The only exceptions to this are medical devices produced by manufacturers in Northern Ireland, which will be able to keep selling CE-marked devices in the UK after the deadline. Some devices are already required to be in compliance.

Manufacturers will need to take a number of steps to ensure their goods can still be sold after the 2023 deadline.

Medicine Direct managing director Jon Higham says: “From what we know so far, the threshold to obtain the UKCA certification mark will largely be the same as the requirements for the CE mark.

“Labelling requirements for the medical devices are also similar to that of the CE mark and require a UK Responsible Person (UKRP) to be listed on the label of a marked device.”

How does a company register for a UKCA mark?

Manufacturers must register their device or IVD with the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA has designated several UK Approved Bodies, which function similarly to EU NBs and can conduct assessments against the relevant requirements to grant UKCA marking.

Existing UK NBs have been automatically rolled over into this new categorisation, without having to undergo a new designation process.

Medical devices are divided into four classes in the UK, in accordance with the UK Medical Device Regulations 2002,generally based on the intended purpose of the device, how long it’s intended to be used and how invasive it is:

  • Class I: low-risk devices like wheelchairs or stethoscopes
  • Class IIa: medium-risk devices such as surgical clamps
  • Class IIb: slightly more complex medium-risk devices like bone fixation plates
  • Class III: high-risk devices such as pacemakers

IVDs are also classed into four risk categories:

  • ‘General’ IVDs, which are not covered by the following three categories
  • IVDs for self-testing: like the lateral flow tests used to screen for Covid-19
  • List B IVDs: reagents products for rubella, toxoplasmosis and phenylketonuria (among others), as well as devices for self-testing for blood sugar
  • List A IVDs: reagents and products for HIV I and II, hepatitis B, C and D, as well as reagent products for determining blood groups and anti-Kell, including those used to test donated blood, plus tests for screening Variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease

Manufacturers of Class I devices and low-risk general IVDs like specimen receptables can generally self-declare their UKCA conformity. Class I devices will still need to receive official approval if they are sterile or have a measuring function.

Not all medical devices can leave it until 2023 to register. In January, the MHRA set the following deadlines for registration for certain classes of device:

  • 1 May 2021: active implantable medical devices, Class IIb implantable devices, Class III medical devices and IVD List A devices
  • 1 September 2021: Class IIb non-implantable medical devices, Class IIa medical devices, IVD List B devices and self-test IVD products
  • 1 January 2022: Class I medical devices and general IVDs from manufacturers based outside of the UK

What’s a UKRP?

For manufacturers based outside of the UK, a UKRP must be assigned who will take responsibility for registering the company’s medical devices with the MHRA before they are sold on the UK market.

The UKRP can be any third-party entity, or an importer or distributor that acts on the manufacturer’s behalf.

In addition to acting as the key point of contact with the MHRA on behalf of the manufacturer, the UKRP must ensure that all technical documentation has been drawn up appropriately and inform the manufacturer about any complaints or adverse incidents that occur in the UK.

Overseas manufacturers need to appoint a UKRP to register their device with the MHRA. The manufacturer is responsible for providing the UKRP with all proper documentation, including a written letter of designation, and must advise them of the details of the importers of all their products. The manufacturer must also ensure the UKRP registers their product correctly and before any deadlines.

The address of the UKRP must appear on device labelling alongside the UKCA mark itself.