sonographer regulation

In New Zealand, sonographers and student sonographers are regulated under national law and are required to be registered with the New Zealand Medical Radiation Technologists Board in order to practise.

In Australia, sonographers and student sonographers are required to be accredited by the Australian Sonographer Accreditation Registry (ASAR) in order to practise under Medicare. This requirement is contained within the Australian Government’s Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation Scheme standards and Medicare legislation. Accreditation of sonographers is linked only to achieving – or in the case of students studying towards – an accredited entry-level qualification, completion of CPD and payment of an annual fee to ASAR.

National registration

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) for health workers commenced on 1 July 2010. The 10 professions which comprised the initial intake into this scheme were those that had registration requirements in all Australian states or territories, as well as those in which legislated regulation is deemed to be in the public interest. An additional 4 professions – including medical radiation practitioners, which are defined as radiographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists – was included in the NRAS, on 1 July 2012. As sonography did not have registration in any states or territories prior to the commencement of NRAS, the profession has not been in a position to negotiate entry into NRAS.

Since 2010 the ASA has regularly lobbied national and state governments for legislated recognition of the profession through direct advocacy and written submissions to governments. In early August 2011 the ASA lodged a submission with the Health Workforce Principal Committee requesting a profession-specific Sonography Board of Australia be formed under NRAS, which was not accepted. More recently the ASA made a submission to the review of the NRAS in late 2014. Unfortunately the Commonwealth has reiterated its position that no further professions other than paramedics’ will be added to NRAS at this time.

Options for unregistered health practitioners including sonographers
National code of conduct for health care workers

In 2015, Australian state and territory governments agreed to a National Code of Conduct for health care workers. The purpose of the National Code is to is to protect the public by setting minimum standards of conduct and practice for all health care workers not regulated under NRAS, who provide a health service. These minimum standards will be used by state and territory health complaints commissioners in determining which disciplinary action can be taken and if necessary a prohibition order issued, in circumstances where a health care worker’s continued practice presents a serious risk to public health and safety.

The ASA is working with state and territory governments to ensure the National Code is implemented in a fair and equitable way for the profession. 

National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions

The National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP), consisting of the peak professional associations of 8 self-regulating health professions, including the ASA representing sonography, released a proposal titled, ‘Harnessing self-regulation to support safety and quality in healthcare delivery’ in March 2012. This proposal concluded that the framework that regulates all health practitioners should be expanded beyond NRAS to include:

  • authorised self-regulating professions via a health professions panel
  • negative licensing to withdraw the ability to practise from registered and self-regulated practitioners who do not meet the regulatory requirements, or unregulated practitioners due to poor practice.

In light of the Commonwealth and NRAS’s lack of engagement with this proposal to date, the NASRHP is continuing to progress work on and advocate for a model whereby the professional peak bodies of self-regulating health professions would be recognised to regulate their respective professions.

In the interim, as there is no regulatory model with the rigour the ASA believes is required for regulation of sonographers and other health practitioners other than NRAS, the ASA continues to support its Position Statement published in early 2010.