Race Equality Foundation Says UK Medical Device Bias Review Is Not Enough

The UK government has launched an “in-depth review” of the impact of potential biases in the design and use of medical devices.

Race Equality Foundation CEO Jabeer Butt welcomed the review, but said that was not enough to explain the disproportionate deaths of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) people from COVID-19.

The review will examine medical devices currently on the market to identify where there are systematic biases and risks and make recommendations on how these issues should be addressed in the creation of medical devices, from design to use.

It will also examine the increased risk of bias in the emerging range of data / artificial intelligence (AI) algorithmic tools.

Medical devices such as oximeters will be examined to identify potential discrepancies in how they function for different ethnic groups and whether the regulations mean that there is a systemic bias inherent in medical devices.

Some research has concluded that patients with darker skin who may need to be hospitalized are at a greater risk of inaccurate oximeter results due to a tendency to have higher levels of oxygen in their blood.

He will also look at MRI scanners, the use of which is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The first results are expected by the end of January 2022.


COVID-19 has highlighted health disparities across the country, as death rates have been higher among people from ethnic minorities.

UK regulations currently do not include provisions to ensure that medical devices are also effective regardless of demographic factors, such as ethnicity. The review aims to accelerate the process of improving the quality and availability of devices for various communities.


Concerns have already been raised in the digital health space about the issue of blind race data. It has been pointed out that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) conducted by Palantir on the NHS COVID-19 data store would not be disaggregated by ethnicity, although BAME people are disproportionately affected by the virus.

In January, NHS England pledged to release ethnic data on people who received the COVID-19 vaccine, following backlash and accusations of potential bias.


Health and Social Affairs Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in The temperature: “While we have very high standards for these technologies in this country – and people should continue to come forward for the treatment they need – we urgently need to learn more about these devices and their impact. on the front line. “

Race Equality Foundation CEO Jabeer Butt OBE said: “This review is welcome but unlikely to explain the disproportionate deaths of blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, including health workers and care, during COVID. It certainly does not replace the need for an urgent public inquiry, to properly explore why the pandemic has had such a devastating impact on certain groups in Britain. “

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