The rise of the souvenir scanners: ultrasonography on the high streetBMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1321 (Published 23 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m1321
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The Society of Radiographers (SoR) welcomes the article by Sally Howard, published in the BMJ , to encourage debate about the role of private obstetric scanning facilities offering ‘souvenir’ scans during pregnancy. The article highlights some fundamental issues which are key to patient safety. The lack of regulation of sonographers is an extremely important one, as there is no legal requirement for an ultrasound operator to be qualified or regulated .
The article  suggests that the NHS employ medical sonologists and specialist radiologists or midwives, the former two are both medical professionals. A crucial point to note is that radiographers were not mentioned in the article, but make up a large proportion of the non-medical ultrasound workforce [2,3]. In the 2018-19 annual monitoring of students on Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE) courses in the UK data available suggests that approximately 62% of non-medical ultrasound students were radiographers . Midwives accounted for 45% and nurses 21% .
Some of the private ultrasound clinics which are not “doctor run” also provide diagnostic ultrasound examinations, either in early pregnancy and growth assessment and/or a wide range of other examinations such as abdominal, gynaecological and musculoskeletal ultrasound scans. There are SoR members working in some of the well-established clinics, a number of whom do so in addition to roles within the NHS. These sonographers have a wealth of experience and are highly skilled practitioners, who would make onward referrals if an abnormality were detected. One of the challenges for parents when attending these clinics is the range of options available, thus a 10 minute gender scan would not be able to assess the fetus in the same way as a 30 or 40 minute detailed anomaly scan.
Another worrying concern is the availability of handheld ultrasound machines or rental ultrasound machines, for women to access in their own homes. The SoR have produced a position statement in relation to these concerns with colleagues at the British Medical Ultrasound Society .
The importance of safety in practice and regulation of sonographers has been key to the discussion within the article  and the SoR will continue to work with stakeholders on this agenda. If private ultrasound scanning clinics are to be used, we would encourage patients or clinicians advising patients to ask about the qualifications of individuals practicing in the clinic and their professional background. The status of qualified sonographers can be checked on the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register  (e.g. radiographers, physiotherapists), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register , General Medical Council (GMC) register  (medics) or the College of Radiographers public voluntary register of sonographers (PVRS) .
1. Howard, S. The rise of the souvenir scanners: ultrasonography on the high street. BMJ 2020; 307: m1321. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1321
2. Professional Standards Authority. 2019. Right-touch assurance for sonographers based on risk of harm arising from practice. https://www.professionalstandards.org.uk/docs/default-source/publication...
3. Centre for Workforce Intelligence. 2017. Securing the future workforce supply Sonography workforce review. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...
4. The Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE). Ultrasound Programme Annual Monitoring data 2018-19. Unpublished.
5. The Society and College of Radiographers. 2020. SCoR and BMUS position statement: The use of portable ultrasound equipment for at home pregnancy scanning. https://www.sor.org/sites/default/files/document-versions/scor_and_bmus_...
6. Health and Care Professions Council. Check the register. https://www.hcpc-uk.org/check-the-register/
7. Nursing and Midwifery Council. Search the register. https://www.nmc.org.uk/registration/search-the-register/
8. General Medical Council. Find a doctor’s record on the medical register. https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/the-medical-register/a...
9. Society and College of Radiographers. Register of Sonographers. https://www.sor.org/practice/ultrasound/register-sonographers
Competing interests: No competing interests