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1.0 Introduction

1.1 There is a UK wide shortage of sonographers that is leading to severe difficulties for many NHS Trusts and Health Boards in meeting increasing demand, government targets and delivery of the national obstetric and vascular screening programmes. New national protocols relating to, for example, stroke management and the post ‘NHS Next Stage Review’ imperative to provide for services to be delivered in primary care further increase the problems. These workload pressures mean sonographers are finding it difficult to meet service demand, look after their own safety in the workplace adequately and undertake continuous professional development activities. They are also finding it difficult to develop their careers further. These various factors are contributing to an increase in the numbers of sonographers taking early retirement, reducing their hours of employment or leaving the service completely. Sonographers are known to be at risk of musculo-skeletal injury due to their work and the reported incidence of this is growing. Current numbers of sonographers in training are barely keeping up with wastage and there is little scope for increased training activity even though the demand is evident. This is not a new problem and in 2003 the British Medical Ultrasound Society published a paper ‘Extending the Provision of Ultrasound services in the UK’ which reviewed ultrasound education provision as part of its remit. This document is available at http://www.bmus.org/policies-guides/pg-protocol01.asp

1.2 This paper identifies the current (2009) ultrasound educational pathways for the sonographer workforce in the UK, and suggests additional pathways that could be implemented rapidly if supported by Health Departments, Strategic Health Authorities, and Health Boards. Additionally, other options for increasing the ultrasound workforce are identified. 
 

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