BMA calls for ethnic diversity to tackle race inequalities when developing medical devices, drugs and medical education

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 21 November 2021

Responding to the news that the Secretary of State for Health is ordering a review into medical devices to look for racial bias, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:

“We support a review of medical devices on their accuracy for different ethnicities, given there is already evidence in clinical papers and within the NHS Race and Health Observatory report, Pulse Oximetry and Racial Bias, suggesting issues with poor pulse oximeter readings in people with dark skin. This means that important clinical decisions - in some cases of critically ill patients - are being made on readings that may not be accurate.

“There needs to be a requirement that all research and development of medical devices are based on testing them on people of different ethnicities before production.

“We also need to address racial bias in medical education. For example, dermatology training is based on showing images of skin conditions only on white skins when they can appear very differently on darker skins. Clinical trials and research often do not have diverse cohorts which can result in drugs that do not work as well on other ethnicities. These unacceptable disparities result in health inequalities, which when combined with a range of other socio-economic factors, severely disadvantage large numbers of people in our community.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.