The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) network has pledged to do more to encourage diversity and equality in health technology.

The network’s first report on the subject, titled Diversity and Innovation, was launched at NHS Expo in Manchester on 4 September and aims to celebrate black and minority ethnic (BAME) innovators in the health tech sector.

Richard Stubbs, chief executive officer at Yorkshire and Humber AHSN and author of the report, said: “We will not succeed in addressing health inequalities without diverse innovators, both from within and outside of the NHS.

“We need innovators from all backgrounds who can develop and support solutions that enable the inclusion of all members of our society.

“Research shows that when at least one member of a team has traits in common with the end user, the entire team better understands that user. A team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% more likely than another team to understand that client.”

The report makes a number of commitments to improve diversity within the organisation, staff and work in the community, including to set annual equality and diversity objectives and for all staff to have undertaken ‘unconscious bias’ training by the end of 2020.

The network also committed to carry out an equality analysis on all national and key local projects and programmes.

“The AHSN Network recognises that we have a leadership role to play in championing and developing diversity within our NHS innovation pipeline,” Mr Stubbs added.

“This is why we are making some key pledges, as a national network, that demonstrate our commitment to this agenda. We will use these pledges to hold ourselves to account for the way that we identify and nurture innovation and the innovators behind them, both inside and outside the NHS and we will publish our progress annually.”

There’s been a much-needed focus on diversity in digital health in recent months, with the launch of the Shuri Network at Digital Health Summer Schools in July.

The network, founded by Dr Shera Chok and Sarah Amani, is the first for BAME women working in digital health and aims to help them further their career in the field.

Commenting on the launch of the AHSN report, Dr Shera Chok said: “The Shuri Network is delighted that the AHSN Network has launched its first report on diversity and innovation.

“We know that increasing diversity and inclusion improves staff engagement, morale and patient care and we would very much like to collaborate with the AHSN Network and other partners to embed this across the NHS and create a sea change in culture, create opportunities for career progression for under-represented groups, including women of colour, and support digital transformation.”

Digital Health recorded a podcast with the Shuri Network at NHS Expo, which will be published on 17 September