Nigel Thomson, SoR professional officer for ultrasound, explains the rationale behind the closure of the Public Voluntary Register of Sonographers and the transfer to the Register of Clinical Technologists
We have been asked by several members if we could explain more fully why the Public Voluntary Register of Sonographers (PVRS) is closing at the end of February 2021.
Sonographers listed on the PVRS by the closure date will be able to transfer to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) accredited Register of Clinical Technologists (RCT)1 should they wish to do so. This is a voluntary register. Members have previously been advised of the change and of an associated PSA consultation2,3.
The SoR, along with a wide range of organisations and individuals, have for many years campaigned for statutory regulation for sonographers. Many sonographers are unable to obtain this due to their professional background or perhaps having trained overseas.
Statutory regulation was recommended in 2008 by the then Health Professions Council to the Secretary of State for Health but did not progress. In 2011 Government policy towards regulation was changed so that no new professional groups would be brought into statutory regulation unless there was compelling evidence to do so.4 This policy remains in place today.
In 2018 the PSA 5 which reviews the work of the nine UK statutory regulators and advises the Government on regulation issues was contracted by Health Education England (HEE) to report on the regulation of sonographers using their ‘right touch assurance’ methodology.6This was as part of still on-going work led by HEE to develop a full career structure for sonography, along with new educational pathways; the lack of statutory regulation affects these proposals.
The report was published in February 2019.7 Statutory regulation for sonographers was not recommended which was contrary to the evidence presented by a wide range of stakeholders including the SoR, British Medical Ultrasound Society, Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE), Society for Vascular Technology and the Royal College of Radiologists.8 It was, however, recognised that statutory regulation may be required in the future as the numbers of sonographers who cannot obtain statutory registration is likely to increase.
The report’s conclusions with respect to not recommending statutory regulation for sonographers has been challenged.9 The SoR will continue to actively campaign for statutory regulation in conjunction with other stakeholder organisations.
The report recommended that the SoR sought accreditation for the PVRS by the PSA or found a home for it under the umbrella of an existing accredited register. On the continuum of assurance, accredited registers provide a higher level of public protection as they require registers to be independently assessed against standards and awarded a quality mark.7
The PVRS is too small in terms of numbers (780 in total, of whom 280 do not hold statutory registration) and the costs too high for the SCoR to apply for PSA accreditation. It would also require arm’s length separation of the register from the SCoR and operating a Fitness to Practise process similar to the HCPC, with all the associated costs and complexities that are involved with doing so. Closing the PVRS without replacement was not an option the SoR wished to pursue so information on suitable alternative accredited registers was sought.
The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) is a professional partner of the RCT and like the SCoR is also a member organisation of CASE. The RCT was therefore approached and asked if it would accept the transfer of registrants from the PVRS and include sonography within the scope of their accredited register in the future.
The RCT agreed to this, the transfer proposals were then fully evaluated and approved by the PSA. The title of sonographer and scope of practice of sonographers will be recognised within the RCT register. There will be primary application routes (CASE accredited awards) and an ‘equivalence’ route for applicants who do not hold these. The RCT also has a policy of supporting statutory regulation for the groups they currently register and will do so in the future for sonographers.
Following a recent HCPC statement supporting statutory regulation for sonographers10 we have been asked by some members to re-assess whether the move to the RCT is still required. The SoR very much welcomes this statement but the HCPC does not itself have the powers to introduce statutory regulation for sonographers without Government direction to do so. This is recognised in the wording of the HCPC statement.
If already listed on the PVRS by the time of its closure at midnight on 28 February 2021, transfer should be a smooth process via a short transfer form. Full details of transfer arrangements will be sent to all listed on the PVRS and it will be an individual sonographer’s decision if they wish to transfer. Frequently Asked Questions about the process are available on the Society’s website.11
We would like to thank all members who have supported the PVRS in the past and indeed may have participated in its original formation by the former UK Association of Sonographers, which merged with the SCoR in 2009.
The PVRS has helped to protect the public and support the bid for statutory registration over many years. We would also like to thank members who have served on the register’s Review Panel to assess applications and have helped to maintain rigor.
The decision to close the PVRS and seek a transfer to an accredited register was not one that was taken lightly and was approved by the UK Council. Obtaining statutory registration for sonographers in conjunction with other stakeholder organisations remains firm SCoR policy and we believe there are compelling reasons for this. However, until this is achieved the public are better able to be protected by a PSA accredited register.
We hope that if you are currently listed on the PVRS you will consider transferring to the RCT. The published FAQ should address most queries but additional questions can be submitted via email to [email protected]
1. Register of Clinical Technologists http://therct.org.uk/
2. Proposal to transfer the Public Voluntary Register of Sonographers to the Voluntary Register of Clinical Technologists https://www.sor.org/news
3. PSA consults on proposed transfer of the PVRS to the Register for Clinical Technologists https://www.sor.org/news
4. Health and Care Professions Council. Regulating further professions https://www.hcpc-uk.org/
5. Professional Standards Authority https://www.professionalstandards.org.uk/
6. Professional Standards Authority. A methodology for assessing and assuring occupational risk of harm. 2016
7. Professional Standards Authority (2019). Report to Health Education England on the Regulation of Sonographers
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