The Society of Radiographers (SoR) has responded to growing populist attacks on sonographer members working in obstetric ultrasound.
Formal and informal pressure groups have been encouraging supporters to challenge the national guidelines to protect staff and pregnant women during antenatal scans, often using the social media hashtag #ButNotMaternity.
This reached new levels this week when the SoR became aware of attempts to rally legal challenges against NHS Trusts that continue to maintain the restrictions contained in the national guidance, in cases where local risk assessment suggests that it is unsafe to enable partners to attend.
Consequently, the SoR has prepared a letter, which members can send from the Society to their Trust/Health Board CEOs and Board Chairs. The letter demands that Trusts and Health Boards publicly condemn such populism and protect their staff and patients in these cases. Members wanting to send the letter should contact their SoR National or Regional Officer by email to obtain a copy (see below).
SoR Director for Industrial Strategy & Member Relations Dean Rogers said: ‘Our case mapping shows this increase in populist online pressure has risen in parallel to an increased number of threats and problems to our members working in this area. Examples of increasingly common problems include partners and friends verbally abusing staff, refusing to wait outside the department until called into the scan room, wear face coverings or stay in designated seats or behind screens.
‘The NHSE&I guidance has been developed in partnership with ourselves, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and is practical, sensible and measured. It is being reviewed and updated regularly and includes some flexibility depending upon environmental factors – such as the size of rooms and where the scan is relative to other things happening in the hospital.
‘The guidance doesn’t start by aiming to separate pregnant women from partners and friends but focuses on what is required to be in place to make this safe for them and staff. At its core are risk assessments, which should be conducted in partnership between managers and health and safety representatives – taking full account of social distancing measures, PPE needs, safe preparation and turnaround times, cleaning pressures and surface washing, and effective room airflow, for example.
‘The letter asks Trusts/Health Boards to review risk assessments and provide additional time per examination and/or resources to ensure appropriate measures are put in place to safeguard staff and patients where necessary, to meet the NHSE&I guidance.
‘The problems are not yet universal and some Trusts are doing a great job protecting staff and visitors in what we all understand are highly emotional and sensitive examinations. There is some great best practice we can and are sharing with the Trusts who contact the SoR. However, this bullying and harassment of sonographers is wrong and we will hold Trusts and Health Boards to account if they bow to populist pressure.’