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Sonographers, also known as ultrasound practitioners, use high frequency sound-waves to assess organs and structures within the body to assist in the screening and diagnosis of a wide range of conditions.

We have been working with partners to develop solutions aimed at addressing workforce shortages and improving education and training routes into sonography, in accordance with the Independent Cancer Taskforce report “Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020” (July 2015). Our aim is to develop an attractive and rewarding career path for all sonographers, which meets the needs of patients and the NHS.


Workforce Report: an ultrasound workforce survey and interviews with a range of stakeholders and acknowledged experts in the field of ultrasound imaging.

ProposalsIn-line with several strategic drivers (such as the Independent Cancer Taskforce report), HEE established a Sonography Workforce Sub-Group to develop plans to help alleviate the shortage of workforce supply into the sonography profession.

Approach: Develop an agreed position and approach to secure a sustainable supply of sonographers.

Career Framework: Develop an outline draft career framework for sonography.

CASE Standards: Develop supporting resources to enable the accreditation of sonographic education at academic levels 6, 7 and 8.

Ultrasound Service Provision: Define the context for the implementation of the new supply routes and career progression framework for sonography.

Apprenticeship: Support the development of a degree apprenticeship for sonography.

Preceptorship: Develop resources to support effective preceptorship for newly qualified sonographers.

Capability Development: Develop resources to support sonographers to develop past their initial qualification and threshold level of competence.

NOS Review: Support a review of National Occupational Standards within the Clinical Imaging and Breast Screening Suite.

Regulation: Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes, Recommendation 84: work with the Department of Health and Social Care, and others, to make sonography a separate registration.

Promotion: Work with Health Careers to promote new entry routes into sonography.

Training Capacity: Work with partners and workforce information teams to model the supply and demand dynamics of the future sonography workforce to develop solutions to address the lack of capacity to train sonographers.

In 2017, we commissioned the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, to produce a report which investigated shortages in the ultrasound workforce. The survey captured the different staff groups who perform ultrasound, either as a direct service or as a tool within another service, the availability of ultrasound training and the barriers to service delivery and training.

HEE has worked with stakeholders to develop a consensus on the approach to be taken with the sonography profession. Our key partners, and those with an interest in the development of the profession, have agreed and published an agreed statement which sets out the approach that all partners are working towards.

The Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education, with HEE and other partners published the CASE Standards for Sonographic Education. This document describes the standards education programmes should meet at academic levels 6, 7 and 8. The CASE Standards are intended to be read in conjunction with the vision for the Future of NHS Ultrasound Service Provision. This outlines the context of developments from the perspective of service delivery.

As part of its Mandate 2020 goals for diagnostics, Health Education England’s Diagnostics Programme has worked with stakeholders on developing a national “Sonographer” role to meet current and future demand for diagnostic services. This includes exploring the level of assurance required for such a role. As part of this work, HEE commissioned the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to assess the evidence of risk to patients and the public posed by the Sonographer role, using their Right-touch assurance methodology. This report details the findings of PSA’s assessment exercise.

View the report. 

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