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3. Registration, including advice to service managers

There is often confusion between a professional body and a regulatory body. SCoR is a professional body, not a regulatory one. Examples of regulatory bodies are the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the General Medical Council (GMC).  These provide statutory registration for their registrants. In the UK it is, for example, a statutory (legal) requirement to be registered with the HCPC if working as a radiographer.

There is no legal requirement for sonographers to be registered with a statutory regulatory body such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) or the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Sonography is not a regulated profession and ‘sonographer’ and ‘ultrasonographer’ are not protected titles. Many employers prefer their sonographers to be statutorily registered but for some otherwise very well qualified sonographers, it is an impossibility. The HCPC, for example, cannot register a sonographer unless they meet the standards for one of the professions they regulate such as radiography. If, for example, a sonographer trained overseas they may be very well qualified and competent but may be unable to register with the HCPC or NMC. Similarly, those who have trained and qualified as sonographers in this country with a scientific or other first degree are unable to register.

NHS Employers has recently (2014) published advice relating to sonographers that can be found at: http://www.nhsemployers.org/EMPLOYMENTPOLICYANDPRACTICE…

The SCoR expects those of its members who are able to register with a regulatory body such as the HCPC or the NMC to do so but recognises that for some, through no fault of their own, this will not be achievable. We are aware of a number of organisations in which well qualified, non-statutorily registered sonographers are employed as advanced practitioner sonographers and are working very effectively, with their expertise highly regarded. 

If you trained as a medical doctor overseas, it would be worthwhile seeing if you are eligible for registration with a licence to practise by the GMC; you can then apply for employment via a medical route.  If you wish to work as a non-medically qualified sonographer then you will not need to register with the GMC.

In the absence of statutory registration for sonographers, the SCoR fully supports departments considering applicants for sonography posts who are unable to gain statutory registration but are otherwise well qualified. Clearly, the normal checks that an employer must make on the background and likely competence of any employee need to be made before any offer of employment.  The comparative standard is a UK Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma in Medical Ultrasound that has been accredited by the Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education. There is, however, no simple way to compare ultrasound qualifications from different countries and each applicant will need to be assessed on their merits. 

Sonographers from the EU/EEA or Switzerland may be able to register with, for example, the HCPC as a temporary registrant depending on their primary qualifications (although not as a sonographer as that is not yet a regulated profession in the UK).  Details can be obtained from http://www.hcpc-uk.org/apply/eeaandswitzerland/

If you trained overseas outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland it may be possible to obtain statutory registration with, again for example, the HCPC.  This will depend on your primary professional experience and qualifications.  Details can be obtained from http://www.hpc-uk.org/apply/international/ There is also information available on the British Medical Ultrasound Society website at http://www.bmus.org/ultrasound-training/ut-sonoreg.asp

The SCoR has made an application to the HCPC for sonography to become a regulated profession and ‘sonographer’ and ‘ultrasonographer’ to become protected tiles. This application was made with the support of the United Kingdom Association of Sonographers which merged with the College of Radiographers in January 2009.  Despite statutory registration being subsequently recommended by the then Health Professions Council (HPC) in October 2009, this application is now unlikely to proceed following the publication of a command paper by the coalition government in February 2011. 2

In the absence of statutory registration, the SCoR maintains  the ‘Public Voluntary Register of Sonographers’ (PVRS) http://www.sor.org/practice/ultrasound/register-sonographers This voluntary register was set up  to support the application for statutory registration and to help protect the public. Although not a requirement for working in the UK, all sonographers residing in the UK are encouraged to apply, whether statutorily registered or not.  Information for employers, voluntary registrants and members of the public can be found in the Policy and Processes document at the above web address. Voluntary registration is limited in the extent to which it can protect the public when compared to statutory registration and the SCoR will continue to support the application for sonographers to become statutorily registered. 

There are legal restrictions on sonographers who are not statutorily registered although for the majority of posts it is not expected that these will present a problem.  These are:

  1. Sonographers who are not statutorily registered cannot act under Patient Group Directions for the administration of drugs and medicines, or train to become Supplementary Prescribers. They are allowed to act under Patient Specific Directions but those requiring them to act under these directions must ensure they are competent to do so safely.
  2. Sonographers who are not also statutorily registered cannot act as a referrer for clinical imaging examinations involving the use of ionising radiation. When also statutorily registered, the professional involved must be entitled to act as referrer under the Ionising Radiations (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2006 and be authorised to do so. 

If you have any questions or comments these can be made via   https://www.sor.org/contact-us

Publishing history: First edition February 2010; Second edition March 2012; Third edition June 2014.

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