Amazon, eBay and Wish have stopped stocking some monitors that let people keep track of their blood oxygen levels after an investigation found they were not fit to be sold.
The online marketplaces removed a number of pulse oxygen testing devices known as oximeters from sale after being alerted to flaws identified by the consumer organization Which?
Pulse oximeters have boomed in popularity as a result of Covid, with millions of people keeping one at home so they can quickly assess if their blood oxygen level has fallen worryingly low – a condition known as “silent hypoxia” – which is a common side- effect of the disease.
Some of the devices were not legally fit to be sold in the UK, did not carry the CE quality Kitemark or wrongly claimed that they had been approved by the NHS.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it would look into the unauthorized use of the health service’s iconic blue and white branding on the devices. It made clear that “the NHS does not approve or endorse any medical devices, including oximeters”.
“The department strictly controls the NHS identity and takes unauthorized use or adaptation of the NHS logo and the letters ‘NHS’ very seriously”, a DHSC spokesperson said.
Which? said that 11 of the cheap pulse oximeters it bought from those websites failed to comply with UK and European Union law when it examined them closely. Some cost as little as 99p. It urged consumers to look for properly approved devices in the “lottery” or selecting the right one.
“It is very concerning that our investigation found these medical devices for sale without the required safety markings or brazenly claiming to be approved by the NHS, and the biggest online marketplaces were not picking up on these red flags”, said Natalie Hitchens, the consumer group’s head of home products and services.
For example, the £ 12.99 Bee Smart pulse oximeter, bought from Amazon, did not contain any contact details for who had made it or for a UK / EU representative.
It also lacked a four-digit code to show that it had been assessed by a notified body, which is required of all medical devices before they go on sale in Britain.
Amazon, eBay and Wish removed the items from sale after being warned about them.
Pulse oximeters can be useful devices for patients to self-monitor their blood oxygen levels, and they have been a key piece of equipment during the pandemic to help healthcare professionals manage patients with Covid or post-Covid syndrome to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment ”, Said Prof Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs.
“However, even though pulse oximeters are affordable and easy to use, they are medical devices that may have an impact on a patient’s health and treatment plan. So it’s important that if patients are purchasing one, they ensure they buy verified products from trusted retailers – and that these retailers ensure they are only selling verified products – to ensure products are safe to use and provide accurate readings. ”