The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical guidance, risk assessment and support for UK obstetric sonographers

Emily Skelton, University of London


UK obstetric sonographers adapted their working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to new guidance issued by professional organisations and requirements for on-going departmental risk assessments. This study aimed to provide an insight into the implementation of this guidance, completion of risk assessments and perception of support within UK obstetric ultrasound departments during the pandemic period.


Obstetric sonographers working in the UK (n=138) used the Qualtrics XMTM platform to complete an anonymous online cross-sectional survey about their working experiences during the pandemic. Participants responded to closed questions about national guidance, risk assessments and their perception of support whilst providing fetal ultrasound screening services. Respondents provided additional detail about their experiences in these areas via free-text boxes.


Over 90% of respondents were aware of or had read guidance issued by professional organisations, although sonographers rated the overall usefulness of new guidelines at an average of 5.2/10 (where 0 = not useful at all, and 10 = extremely useful). Challenges for the implementation of guidance in departments were also identified, mostly related to the clinical working environment, including limitations of physical space (76.3%), time constraints (67.5%) and ventilation (61.3%). Most sonographers (77.2%) were aware that a departmental risk assessment had been undertaken, with waiting areas, scan rooms and clinically vulnerable staff highlighted as the most concerning factors. Sonographers felt most supported by their ultrasound colleagues (83.5%) and line managers (41.2%). They felt least supported by senior management and leadership personnel (60.8%), other antenatal colleagues (51.5%) and professional organisations (41.2%).


Whilst most sonographers were aware of published COVID-19 guidance, challenges for its implementation in clinical departments were identified. Local risk mitigation strategies often did not prioritise the scan room environment, despite it being highlighted as a concern. Support from the wider senior service team and professional organisations will be essential to facilitate post-pandemic recovery of the workforce.

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