Society of Radiographers UK Overall and Individual Regional Radiographer of the Year 2019 Award


SCoR Radiographer of the Year 2019

Helen Ong graduated in 1994 with a BSc in Radiography  and  was given the opportunity in 1997 to train and specialise in Medical Ultrasound and has been a practicing sonographer since 1999.

Helen took up post as a Reporting Sonographer in  August 2008 and brought a wealth of Ultrasound experience to the Radiology Department in the South Eastern HSC Trust, gained through extensive Ultrasound practice during her previous employments in several large teaching hospitals.

Not long after taking up post, Helen commenced a Post Graduate Certificate in Breast Ultrasound Imaging and progressed to become a highly valued member of the Breast Ultrasound Imaging Team.

In November 2016 a report outlining that 43% of babies who required cardiac surgery or an interventional cardiology procedure in their first year of life, had their cardiac abnormality detected antenatally.  The report recommended that detection should be increased to 70%.  In addition, it recommended standardisation of the cardiac content of the fetal anomaly scan protocol across the region by ensuring fetal cardiac views are in line with NHS England’s Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP) standards.  In January 2017 Helen was appointed as Lead Obstetric and Gynaecology Sonographer, a new role which she embraced with dedication and enthusiasm to ensure that the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme protocols were implemented by 1 April 2017. With the cooperation of the obstetric sonographers, Helen commenced a review of the quality of the anomaly scan service.  Her aim was to improve working practices in keeping with recommendations.

Helen’s persistence was key to the Trust providing capital funding to replace the obstetric ultrasound system which was at the end of its operational life. The new system facilitated a more detailed diagnostic image of the fetal heart which instantly improved the detection of congenital heart disease (CHD). 

She developed a protocol for performing the 20 week anomaly scan which included the recommended images to be captured for electronic storage. The protocol also detailed a set of measurable standards to determine a course of action based on the FASP recommendations.  Electronic image storage facilitated teaching and audit and enabled feedback to sonographers for learning purposes.  Moreover, electronic storage complies with Clinical Governance.

In order to increase detection rates, Helen led a training programme for improvement, specifically for obstetric sonographers to support them in performing the required additional cardiac views (5 views instead of 1 view).   Initially, a baseline audit was performed and followed by regular audits to assess sonographer compliance with protocol and image quality.  Within 24 months, compliance rates increased from 26% to 97%. These audits were shared regionally in order to benchmark performance.

Helen’s primary objective is to ensure that the service continues to improve and her current focus for improvement is now the fetal brain. Additional teaching sessions have been facilitated across the region and all sonographers attended which assisted in their Continuing Professional Development.  

In addition to focussing on performance and image quality, all obstetric sonographers attended training in “Breaking Bad News.”  Helen helped to plan and to deliver this training together with other clinical educational staff.  Sonographers are now confident in breaking bad news in both an empathetic and caring manner whilst being open and transparent.

Further improvement in the quality of the service has been achieved through Helen and a cross site team of obstetric sonographers.  The team undertook  a QI project “Scaniexty” in 2018/19. This project aimed to reduce patient anxiety by 10% and educate first time mothers by the use of an informative video.

Helen has listened and learnt from service users.  In January 2019, a baseline patient questionnaire was completed by 52 patients to gauge their understanding of the anomaly scan. The aim was to establish how best to educate patients in order to improve the service we provide.  Results indicated that 94% of patients felt anxious regarding the outcome of the scan.

In addition to a patient questionnaire, a sonographer questionnaire was developed and used to evaluate the impact of patient anxiety on a sonographer whilst performing a 20 week scan.  50% of sonographers responded that on a regular basis they felt stressed when performing the scan.  In order to improve patient knowledge prior to the 20 week scan Helen produced a video in which she describes exactly what will happen during the scan.  We are the first hospital to produce a video of this kind and it is currently being piloted on 10% of first-time mums to establish if anxiety can be reduced.  This will be measured using pre and post video questionnaires.

The longer term goal is to have the video link as a QR code which patients can download directly to their devices during their booking in appointments.

Sonographers are confident that more heart anomalies and conditions affecting major vessels leading into and out of the heart are now more readily detectable following in-depth training and the use of the improved cardiac imaging protocol.

Thanks to Helen our sonographers have grown in confidence and competence and their commitment to providing a quality service has been outstanding.

During 2017 Helen also developed and implemented a limited Trans-vaginal (TV) imaging service, a first for the department as regionally this service provision remains unfunded.  She has worked closely with a Consultant Radiologist to ensure that an imaging protocol is available and that service provision is maintained to a high standard.   In addition, she manages the service and provides training to sonographers in the expectation that a TV service will be appropriately funded in the near future. 

Helen also been very influential in establishing an improved dating scan service which is provided by midwives and obstetric registrars across three hospital sites. 

Alyson Lattimer, Governance Training & Service Improvement Lead within the South Eastern Trust and who nominated Helen added “Helen has an obvious flare and determination for driving change and has been inspirational in achieving and maintaining the FASP standards.  She is the epitome of an exceptional leader and is a wonderful ambassador for the radiography profession.  I am thrilled that Helen has been given this award which she very much deserves.”


Pictured congratulating Helen on her award is Interim Director of Hospital Services, Dr David Robinson, Maggie Parks, Asst Director Surgery and Interim Chief Executive, Seamus McGoran










Pictured with Helen is Alyson Lattimer, Governance Training & Service Improvement Lead within the South Eastern Trust who nominated Helen