Universities collaborate with NHS to tackle ultrasound workforce shortage

Universities collaborate with NHS to tackle ultrasound workforce shortage  name

Over £1million has been awarded to the Universities of Cumbria and Salford to support the education of new sonographers in North West England through a virtual North West Ultrasound Academy.

The funding has come from the newly created North West Imaging Academy, a Government initiative set up to tackle shortages of trained sonographers regionally. 

The funding will be used to enhance and expand training facilities within both universities and to create additional dedicated ultrasound training rooms in hospital trusts throughout the region. It will also support dedicated posts for clinical educators and two regional clinical coordinators.

Coordinators from both universities will ensure all stakeholders work together effectively in utilising the regional educational resources available to maximise the training opportunities for a range of professional groups who use this medical imaging technology.

The shortage of sonographers within the medical imaging workforce* is at chronic levels, due, in part, to increased need of cancer diagnoses.

As some departments have not been able to regularly commit to training students, the new collaborative approach is intended to create a network of clinical training sites, allowing a pipeline of sonography graduates to be available each year to enter the workforce.

Charles Sloane, Professional Lead for the Medical Sciences group at the University of Cumbria said:” universities often work in competition with each other for students and clinical partners to support health courses. This is not always in the best interests of the NHS workforce and patients, particularly when training resources are very limited. It has been so refreshing to take a collaborative regional approach to tacking this issue by working with colleagues from the University of Salford”.

Claire Mercer, Head of Radiography at the University of Salford commented: “this is a fantastic opportunity to bring together the skills of both university teams, working collaboratively, to address and support the workforce in ultrasound across the region.  We are delighted to have the opportunity and support to work in such an innovative way.”

The scheme is an expansion to an Ultrasound Academy** initially launched by the University of Cumbria in 2020.

Due to its success, the North West Ultrasound Academy incorporates a partnership with Salford University working with an growing number of NHS Trusts, including Manchester Foundation Trust, Northern Care Alliance, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, to supply trained sonographers across the North West and North East of England.

Clinical ultrasound is a dynamic imaging investigation using real-time high frequency sound waves to determine the size, structure and normality of tissues within the body. It can be used in screening, diagnostic and therapeutic contexts in a range of clinical applications.  Ultrasound examinations account for about 25% of all the medical imaging procedures currently undertaken.

Currently, there are around 3,000 trained sonographers practising in the UK***. Normally, they are trained radiographers or other healthcare professionals who undertake a post graduate qualification to practise the field of sonography.