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STANDING Together aims to develop standards for datasets that AI systems use to ensure they are diverse, inclusive and work across all demographic groups.

A new project has been launched in partnership with the University of Birmingham aiming to address racial and ethical health inequalities using artificial intelligence (AI).

STANDING Together, being led by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), aims to develop standards for datasets that AI systems use to ensure they are diverse, inclusive and work across all demographic groups. The resulting standards will help regulators, commissioners, policymakers and health data institutions assess whether AI systems are underpinned by datasets that represent everyone, and don’t leave underrepresented or minority groups behind.

We’re looking forward to starting work on our project and developing standards that we hope will improve the use of AI both in the UK and around the world. We believe AI has enormous potential to improve patient care, but through our earlier work on producing AI guidelines, we also know that there is still lots of work to do to make sure AI is a success story for all patients. Through the STANDING Together project, we will work to ensure AI benefits all patients and not just the majority.

Xiao Liu, Clinical Researcher in Artificial Intelligence and Digital Healthcare at the University of Birmingham and UHB, and STANDING Together project co-leader.

NHSX’ NHS AI Lab, the NIHR, and the Health Foundation have awarded in total £1.4m to four projects, including STANDING Together. The other organisations working with UHB and the University of Birmingham on STANDING Together are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Health Data Research UK, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and The Hospital for Sick Children (Sickkids, Toronto).

The NHS AI Lab introduced the AI Ethics Initiative to support research and practical interventions that complement existing efforts to validate, evaluate and regulate AI-driven technologies in health and care, with a focus on countering health inequalities. Today’s announcement is the result of the Initiative’s partnership with The Health Foundation on a research competition, enabled by NIHR, to understand and enable opportunities to use AI to address inequalities and to optimise datasets and improve AI development, testing and deployment.

Brhmie Balaram, Head of AI Research and Ethics at NHSX, said: “We're excited to support innovative projects that demonstrate the power of applying AI to address some of our most pressing challenges; in this case, we're keen to prove that AI can potentially be used to close gaps in minority ethnic health outcomes. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise care for patients, and we are committed to ensuring that this potential is realised for all patients by accounting for the health needs of diverse communities."

Dr Indra Joshi, Director of the NHS AI Lab at NHSX, added: “As we strive to ensure NHS patients are amongst the first in the world to benefit from leading AI, we also have a responsibility to ensure those technologies don’t exacerbate existing health inequalities. These projects will ensure the NHS can deploy safe and ethical Artificial Intelligence tools that meet the needs of minority communities and help our workforce deliver patient-centred and inclusive care to all.”