Concern over Private Baby Scans Prompts Call for Industry Regulation

25 November 2020

Lawyers have today urged the Care Quality Commission to introduce regulations and a stricter code of conduct to be introduced for clinics offering private pregnancy scans after an investigation revealed a ‘worrying pattern’ of failures in the diagnosis of serious medical issues.

The call to action comes amidst evidence published by BBC News which shows that some women who purchase ultrasounds – either to gain reassurance about the wellbeing, or to establish the gender of the baby – were not being told about medical conditions or foetal abnormalities.

In one case, the BBC reports that an expectant mother was simply told to book at NHS anomaly scan as the head could not be fully seen by the sonographer, only to later learn that the baby had a condition called anencephaly which meant it could not survive.

Around 200 private scanning studios are now in operation across the UK, which carry out hundreds of thousands of ultrasounds each year.

Our Medical Negligence Solicitors have today backed calls from Jeanette Dickson, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, who has said that regulation needs to be introduced for sonographers because of the growth of the industry.

Geoffrey Simpson-Scott, our Head of Medical Negligence said it is ‘vital’ that those who are practicing are held accountable in the same was as those operating in roles such as midwifery and radiography.

Issues identified as part of the BBC News investigation included failures to diagnose ectopic pregnancies, as well as spina bifida cases.

Concerns were also raised around the practices of many private companies including accepting appointments to see women who are bleeding instead of making a recommendation to contact the NHS, as well as carrying out multiple scans, and using medical equipment to listen to the heartbeat of a foetus before 12 weeks.

Geoffrey added, “Going for a scan during a pregnancy is inevitably going to invoke a whole host of emotions – excitement, certainly, but also a degree of apprehension and trepidation.

“It’s only right that they fully understand the purpose of an ultrasound.

“Many private organisations are marketing this service as recreational, and in doing so suggest that they have no professional obligation to discuss any serious concerns with the ‘patient’, which is a real cause for concern.

“The introduction of regulations for sonographers, as well as a industry accepted code of conduct will help to ensure that there is clarity and consistency across the board for private practices, and that consumers have some reassurance of what the scan will entail.

“It also means that expectant mothers fully understand that if there is a problem they won’t be left in the dark until their next NHS anomaly scan, which in some cases could be several months away.”

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