NHS Updates Pulse Oximeter Guidelines Highlighting Inaccuracies in Dark-Skinned Patients

On Saturday, July 31st, the British public health service (NHS) revised its guidelines for the use of pulse oximeters. These devices, crucial in measuring blood oxygen levels in Covid-19 patients, have been reported to give “misleading readings” for patients with dark skin.

In a statement, the NHS acknowledged that this change follows a study conducted in April by its Race and Health Observatory. The study found that pulse oximeters can sometimes “amplify” blood oxygen levels for darker-skinned people, leading to potentially misleading readings. This revelation raises concerns about the reliability of these devices in delivering accurate health assessments for patients of all skin tones.

The NHS’s updated guidelines aim to ensure that all patients receive accurate and equitable healthcare, particularly in the treatment and management of Covid-19. This move is seen as a significant step towards addressing racial disparities in medical equipment and healthcare outcomes.



Pulse oximeters, often used at home to monitor for possible degradation, work by sending a light through the skin to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, says the NHS.