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RUG Workforce Subgroup - click here for Terms of Reference

Chaired by Jo McHugo (Consultant Radiologist - B'ham Women's Hospital) this group is working with the West Midlands SHA Workforce Deanery to improve obstetric ultrasound staffing levels.


There is a national shortage of ultrasonographers across all specialities. Developments in diagnostics and new screening programmes are increasing the requirement for this service, without a corresponding increase in staffing. The NSC undertook a survey of all antenatal ultrasound departments across England in 2002. Half of units had vacancies and 70% had problems being released for training, 92% reported that this was due to staff shortages.

An application has been made in March 2008 to the Health Professions Councils (HPC) for protection of the title Sonographer. This would support the development of direct entry training for sonographers. A decision is expected in Autumn 2009. Documentation in support of accreditation was submitted by the West Midlands RUG, and members were encouraged to register with the SCoR/UKAS Voluntary Register.

Investment bid - Sonographer training

The West Midlands Strategic Health Authority has funded a regional strategy for increasing obstetric ultrasound capacity by training more radiographers. The aim is to relieve local barriers to training by co-ordinating clinical placements across the region. It will facilitate the training of students from units where local staffing levels were blocking clinical placements.

The project aims to train 18 students over 3 years. The first cohort of 5 additional trainee sonographers started the Birmingham City University Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Ultrasound in February 2009.

Investment bid - Speciality Trainees

In 1998, the West Midlands developed a 13 session practical program for Specialist Trainees in basic obstetric ultrasound. This has recently been replaced by a regional training program to deliver the RCOG curriculum that requires all Speciality Trainees to acquire ultrasound scanning skills in early pregnancy assessment and fetal biometry (basic). The new skills will offer timely near-patient diagnostics on labour wards and within day assessment/antenatal care.

Harry Gee, School of Postgraduate Medicine, was successful in a SHA Investment bid to deliver the new training programme. The two regional investment bids are linked and share common outcomes.

Short courses in Ultrasound

Birmingham City University offers two postgraduate courses in Obstetric Ultrasound in first and third trimester scanning which are aimed at midwives. These courses started in 2003 and were developed with the West Midlands Regional Ultrasound Group.

In 2009, the NSC confirmed that the level of training and assessment of the West Midlands short course for first trimester is appropriate to undertake screening scans in the first trimester. The NSC Down's Syndrome Standards specify the minimum qualifications for professionals undertaking antenatal screening scans.

RUG Workforce Survey - 2007

The Perinatal Institute undertook a survey of workforce, activity, and obstetric ultrasound management structures in 2007. Surveys were sent to all maternity ultrasound departments via Superintendent Sonographers. Data collected relate to staff in post during June 2007, and to obstetric ultrasound activity undertaken between January and June 2007. Responses were received from 18 units (95%).

Service modelling

Service modelling of the routine obstetric ultrasound service in the West Midlands was undertaken to quantify the proposed expansion in routine service necessary to adopt national and regional guidelines.

Regional Workforce Plans

Members of the RUG Workforce Subgroup attended a meeting in October 2008 to assist in the design of a regional workforce planning exercise across all ultrasound specialities. The data collection tool was sent out in October, and the Regional Workforce Plan will be completed in April.

Recruiting/training Radiographers

A survey of year 3 radiology students at Birmingham City University undertaken in 2007 showed that a third were interested in working in medical ultrasound. This would equate to 27 newly qualified radiographers interested in this area of practice graduating each year.

Skills for Health

Click here to see details of a Special Forum held on 29 Oct 2008 to discuss current priorities in ultrasound services.



© Perinatal Institute 2011