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Research using artificial intelligence to reduce harm to pregnant black women starts.


Research has started to apply artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of reducing risk to pregnant black women.

Experts at Loughborough University are working with independent safety body, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), to identify patterns in its recent investigations.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has conducted more than 2,000 maternity investigations since April 2018, with about 10% involving black, Asian and ethnic minority families, examining cases involving the death of the mother during pregnancy or childbirth, miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths.

The new research team will now study more than 600 of these following wider research that shows that black women in the UK are more than four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women.

The HSIB and Loughborough University team will develop a ‘machine learning system’ which will use a set of codes to identify factors that contribute to harm during pregnancy and birth experienced by black families.

The factors include biological factors, such as obesity or birth history; social and economic factors, such as language barriers and unemployment; and the quality of care and communication with the mother.

The research will study how these elements interact and influence each other, and help researchers design ways to improve the care of black mothers and babies.

Reader in human factors and complex systems at Loughborough University, Dr Patrick Waterson, who is helping lead the project, said: "Ultimately, we believe the outcomes from our research have the potential to transform the NHS's ability to reduce maternal harm amongst mothers from black ethnic groups."

He added that in the longer term, the research could improve patient safety for all mothers.

HSIB's medical director, Kevin Stewart, said: "We are delighted to be working with Loughborough University to better understand the factors that lead to poor outcomes and experiences for some women from black ethnic groups.

"We believe our data, gathered from so many of our maternity investigations, will help develop the learning required to automate analysis and identification of themes."

Chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Butt, said that ‘if used wisely’ AI had the potential to improve outcomes.

He said: "A woman's ethnicity should have no impact on her chances of having a safe and healthy pregnancy, yet the reality for black pregnant women is that it does.

"While we welcome the use of AI to better address the problem through examining key factors like the care experiences of black mothers, safeguards will be crucial."