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Why sonographers should maintain their registration

29 April, 2013

First published in January 2011.

Revised November 2015

The Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) occasionally has enquiries from sonographer members as to whether they need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) if they are now solely performing ultrasound examinations. The sonographer will often have trained originally as a radiographer, but this is also relevant to those members who trained (for example) as a nurse or midwife and are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The SCoR expects those members who are able to register with the HCPC or other regulatory body such as the NMC to do so. It accepts, however, that ‘sonographer’ is not yet a statutorily regulated protected title and that statutory registration is impossible for some sonographers to achieve. This may be due to their original professional background, or the fact that they were direct entrants to sonography training either overseas or in the UK.

The rationale for this is as follows:

i) Registration provides added protection to the public. Registrants must meet the published standards, abide by a code of conduct and ethics and participate in personal continuous professional development.

ii) Many employers require their sonographers to be registered if it is possible for them to be so and maintaining their registration is often written into their contracts.

iii) If a sonographer allows their registration to lapse and they later need to re-register  (for example, if they move employers and the new employer requires registration) they will have to follow the procedures set out by the HCPC or other relevant regulatory body in order to achieve this.

iv) It is increasingly the case that sonographers can refer patients directly for examinations such as CT scanning or other investigations using ionising radiation. Following amendments to the ionising radiation legislation in 2006 this is legal only if the sonographer is a registered healthcare practitioner with a regulatory body such as the HCPC or NMC.

v) To work in accordance with Patient Group Directions for the supply and administration of medicines sonographers must also be statutorily registered  (e.g. as a radiographer, nurse, midwife or physiotherapist). Depending on their professional background some sonographers are training to become or already are supplementary or independent prescribers. Statutory registration is again  a requirement.

vi) Many other groups aspire to achieve statutory regulation as recognition of their professionalism as well as to further protect the public but have had this refused. Sonographers who hold a registerable qualification have already achieved this recognition and should carefully consider whether it is in their best interests to allow it to
lapse. Registration will become of increasing importance with respect to the enhanced status of Allied Health Professionals.

The Society and College of Radiographers will continue to support the application that was made by the SCoR and the United Kingdom Association of Sonographers (which merged with the SCoR in January 2009) for sonography to become a regulated profession and for 'sonographer' and 'ultrasonographer' to become protected titles. This application is, however, now unlikely to proceed following coalition government policy advice on statutory regulation that was published in February 2011 and affected 15 aspirant groups, of which sonography was one.

Further details can be found by clicking here.

The Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) (Amendment) Regulations (2006).

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