Racial bias in medical equipment is a red herring – and the government knows it

Some research does indeed point to problems with medical equipment, writes Ian Hamilton, but making this the focus of an inquiry is a calculated distraction

Monday 22 November 2021 17:11
<p>Health Secretary Sajid Javid </p>

Health Secretary Sajid Javid

One of the cruellest aspects of the Covid pandemic was the disproportionate impact it had on people from different ethnic groups – more severe symptoms and tragically higher mortality.

So on the face of it, the announcement of a review into potential bias in medical devices such as oximeters by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, is a welcome development. Some research does indeed point to problems with medical equipment, such as oximeters used to monitor oxygen levels not performing as well on people with darker skin. This could have led to those from ethnic minorities not receiving sufficient oxygen when infected with Covid, contributing to the disproportionate number of hospitalisations and deaths.

Any independent scrutiny of the government’s response to the impact of Covid on those from ethnic minorities is important and timely if we are to reduce the unfair impact the pandemic has had on these individuals and their families. However, what is really odd about this announcement is the microscopic brief and focus on machines and technology. Its akin to focussing on the reliability of breathalysers in drink driving offences; the technology obviously has a role but it’s not the root cause of the problem.

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