Covid: Javid orders review of medical device racial bias

Covid: Javid orders review of medical device racial bias

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A review into whether medical devices are equally effective regardless of the patient’s ethnicity has been ordered by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Research suggests oximeters, which are clipped to a person’s finger, can overstate the level of oxygen in the blood of people from ethnic minorities.

Ministers want to know whether bias could have prevented patients receiving appropriate Covid treatment.

Mr Javid said any bias was “totally unacceptable”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Javid said he was determined to “close the chasms that the pandemic has exposed”.

He cited the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.

Evidence suggests people belonging to ethnic minorities have been at greater risk from Covid during the pandemic.

A study published last year indicated that black people were twice as likely as white people to catch coronavirus. People of Asian heritage were 1.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to be infected, research suggested.

Mr Javid said: “It is easy to look at a machine and assume that everyone’s getting the same experience.

“But technologies are created and developed by people, and so bias, however inadvertent, can be an issue here too.”

He added: “One of the founding principles of our NHS is equality, and the possibility that a bias – even an inadvertent one – could lead to a poorer health outcome is totally unacceptable.”

An independent chairman to lead the review is yet to be appointed, but the initial findings are expected by the end of January.

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