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3.0 Current Principal Issues

3.1 Costs of Training

3.1.1 Postgraduate certificate/postgraduate diploma training posts are usually advertised as employed status and applicants may be internal or external to training departments. Applicants are traditionally from a healthcare profession background such as radiography or midwifery. Salary should be in accordance with the provisions of Annex U to the Agenda for Change, although this is not followed by all employers and trainee sonographers can be found on pay bands 5, 6 and 7. Therefore the combined course fees and salary for the 18 months to two year training period is approximately £60,000 to £70,000 per individual, with additional travel and subsistence costs where relevant.  Where the trainee is an internal applicant. ‘backfill’ may be required to ensure service delivery is maintained so adding further salary costs.

3.1.2 Competency based qualifications are generally obtained by existing employees learning in the workplace. Costs are therefore lower, but the scope of accredited practice is well defined and less flexible. 

3.2 Lack of Strategy

There is no national approach to or overview of ultrasound education and training in any of the four countries of the UK, although Scotland is taking steps in this direction. In England, funding is mostly left to the local NHS Trust level, with no guarantee that the trainee will stay with the NHS Trust that funded and provided the training. In Scotland some but not all Health Boards support training financially and help provide clinical placements. Special projects are also occasionally funded by NHS Education for Scotland. Many employers (including those in the independent sector) will only employ qualified sonographers and so do not contribute to training, supply or funding of this group of staff.  Strategic Health Authorities, with one or two notable
exceptions, consider themselves unable to address sonographer workforce development on the basis that it is ‘post-registration development’.

3.3 Workforce Planning and Development Data

Accurate data relating to the numbers of sonographers employed and the numbers required is not readily available. CASE publishes the numbers of sonographers enrolled on accredited programmes and for the 2007/2008 academic year noted the following:

110 students enrolled on Post Graduate Certificate programmes
110 students enrolled on Post Graduate Diploma programmes
61 students enrolled on MSc programmes
 
It should be noted that there will be some double counting of students; for example, most of those enrolled for an MSc award will already hold a PgD. Taken overall, these figures suggest an output of around the low 200s into the UK sonographer workforce during 2009 (ignoring the potential for failures and withdrawals from
programmes).

The Society of Radiographers undertook a survey in September 2009 to examine
sonographer workforce difficulties in more detail. Its findings are published in
appendix 1 to this document.

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