Ensuring the safety of private baby scans

SoR professional officer Gill Harrison reports on a Society collaboration with the Care Quality Commission

Published: 28 December 2022 Ultrasound

Many expectant parents opt to have private scans during pregnancy, often in addition to their NHS screening scans, as an opportunity to buy 3D images, 4D video clips, find out the sex of their baby for “gender reveal” activities and share the experience with multiple family members or friends.

Others use private providers to access reassurance scans when they have concerns about their pregnancy, want to check the growth of their baby or gain a second opinion. A number of SoR members work in these clinics and provide diagnostic scans for expectant parents under clear protocols and guidelines.

"Souvenir scans"

Some private clinics provide only “souvenir scans” where the aim is to simply provide pictures and/or video images of the baby.

Despite guidance suggesting that scans should not be performed solely for the purpose of producing souvenir images or videos1,2 many new souvenir scan clinics are opening in the UK. A number have been rated as “inadequate” or “needing improvement” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

To help ensure that services are as safe as possible for expectant parents, the SoR has been working with the CQC and the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to find ways to inform parents about the difference between souvenir and diagnostic scans and the qualifications needed for safe practice.

Baby scan

The CQC has updated the information for parents on its website. The SoR has also developed competencies for private baby scan clinics. These can be used by the clinics to self-assess the standard of training and competency of staff, but also by CQC inspectors when monitoring clinics.

There are a number of key points in the document to protect the expectant parent, such as: 

  • To ensure a safe, high-quality equivalent service provision in private clinics, the SoR recommends that ultrasound practitioners have a CASE-accredited qualification or equivalent.
  • The SoR strongly recommends that follow-up scans are performed by the same provider… to ensure continuity of care. 
  • Doppler is not recommended for non-diagnostic scans at any gestational age, particularly pulse wave Doppler, due to the increased output power and subsequent increase in the heating effect on sensitive tissue. 
  • Client safety should be first and foremost in any service.

The competencies cover equipment, quality management and safety, infection prevention and control, quality assurance and learning, early pregnancy and all three trimesters of pregnancy.
The document, Competencies for Ultrasound Practice in Private Baby Scan Clinics, can be found in the SoR document library at www.sor.org/babyscans

Image: Marko Geber/ DigitalVision/Getty Images