Couple are first in UK to be convicted of running a black market baby scan clinic

Couple are first in UK to be convicted of running a black market baby scan clinic: Untrained pair put pregnant mothers at risk by offering £30 ultra sound images at height of pandemic

  • Teri Horton, 30, and David Jones, 35, set up unregulated Cheshire-based clinic 
  • The couple charged expectant parents up to £30 for a set of baby pictures
  • The clinic breached Covid rules and put parents-to-be at ‘horrendous risk’ 
  • Horton and Jones pleaded guilty to  healthcare charges and were fined £6,000

A former Jet 2 check-in agent and her partner have become the first people in the UK to be convicted of running a black market baby scan clinic. 

Teri Horton, 30, and partner David Jones, 35, charged expectant parents up to £30 for ultrasound pictures of their unborn children. 

The couple have been fined nearly £6,000 after pleading guilty to setting up the unregulated baby scan clinic which put patients at ‘horrendous risk’ during the pandemic. 

Horton and Jones were refused permission to set up their Precious Glimpse 2 scanning centre twice but opened their Chesire-based business anyway, Warrington Magistrates’ Court heard.  

The unregulated operation brazenly flaunted Covid rules while NHS maternity centres were operating on a restricted basis. 

The couple advertised their unregulated service on social media and had a shop in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. 

The Care Quality Commission began investigating the business after a string of complaints. 

The couple, who have two children, had twice been refused permission to set up the clinic. They pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Social Care Act 2008

The couple, who have two children, had twice been refused permission to set up the clinic. They pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Social Care Act 2008

Teri Horton, 30, who has two children with David Jones, 35, was fined £320 in the first case of its kind

David Jones, 35, the father of Horton's two children, was fined £1,160 and ordered to pay costs

The couple, pictured outside Warrington Magistrates’ Court, charged expectant parents up to £30 for the ultrasound images. Their clinic breached Covid rules, placing expectant parents at ‘horrendous risk’

It emerged the couple had hired ultra sound equipment despite having no experience in healthcare and their premises had inadequate Covid safety measures in place, putting mothers-to-be and other users at ‘horrendous risk.’ 

Those who used the services were not harmed. 

Horton, who currently works as a receptionist and Jones, who works as a flooring company tradesman, were landed with a legal bill of almost £6,000.

Horton was fined £320 and Jones £1,160 and the pair were ordered to pay a total of £4,158 in costs and surcharges. 

They pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 in what the CQC said was the first case of its kind. 

Their baby-scanning clinic was shut down.

Horton, 30, previously worked as a Jet 2 check-in agent and is currently a receptionist. Concerns were raised over her lack of healthcare experience and how the couple would have escalated complications during scans

Horton, 30, previously worked as a Jet 2 check-in agent and is currently a receptionist. Concerns were raised over her lack of healthcare experience and how the couple would have escalated complications during scans

Horton and Jones got the idea to set up the clinic from a friend, their defence lawyer told Warrington Magistrates' Court, but were refused permission. They opened their business despite this and performed 12 scans

Horton and Jones got the idea to set up the clinic from a friend, their defence lawyer told Warrington Magistrates’ Court, but were refused permission. They opened their business despite this and performed 12 scans

Michelle Brown, prosecuting for the CQC, said the use of ultrasound equipment was a regulated activity and the couple had known they needed permission for their business.

‘Failure to do so strikes at the heart of the way the commission protects the health and welfare of the people using the services. It places the service users at personal risk if important safeguards and safety requirements are not met and overseen by the commission,’ Ms Brown said. 

Ms Brown added that instead of waiting for the required permission, Horton and Jones began performing scans at the end of August 2020.

‘Though no actual harm could be shown to have occurred during the relatively short offending period, the application process showed significant concerns about the risk of harm. They understood they should have been regulated – but they did not wait, despite warnings.’

The court heard Precious Glimpse 2 was refused registration due to inadequate Covid safety policies and measures for dealing with other infections.

There were also questions raised about how the couple would escalate concerns should there be any anomalous scans and Horton’s lack of healthcare experience.

Inquiries revealed the couple had signed a 12-month contract to hire the ultrasound equipment for £900 a month from July 2020. 

They had also taken out a rental agreement for the baby scan premises for £550 a month from May. 

Scans were being sold for between £25 to £30 each with an option to upgrade to 4D.

Defence lawyer Damien Wall said the couple had been ‘well meaning but naive.’ 

He said that the offending period was August 31, 2020 to November 7, 2020 and that in total they had performed 12 scans.

The couple borrowed £15,000 from Horton's father to renovate their Cheshire premises. The company stopped trading in October 2020, the court heard

The couple borrowed £15,000 from Horton’s father to renovate their Cheshire premises. The company stopped trading in October 2020, the court heard

Horton and Jones share two children and offered scans from between £25-£30, with an option to upgrade to 4D

Horton and Jones share two children and offered scans from between £25-£30, with an option to upgrade to 4D

‘It was a relatively short period of offending,’ Mr Wall said, ‘A period during which we were still fairly heavily confined by the pandemic.

‘These are two hard-working people who started this enterprise hoping to provide a service to the local community. Unfortunately, rather naively, you may think, they did not really have the wherewithal to carry out that they hoped to do.’

Mr Wall said the couple had taken a loan of £15,000 from Horton’s father to set up the business and hoped a friend running a similar clinic would be able to offer them help.  

‘There were obviously some complaints but the defendants do not accept that they were genuine complaints. They do not believe there were specific individuals who received bad treatment or who had received bad service.

‘The scans which had been done were for a number of individuals who were personally known to the defendants. They were paid for in cash. The amount of money received was relatively small all over a relatively small period of time.’

Jones, 35, who currently works as a flooring company tradesman, was involved in refurbishing the clinic's premises

Jones, 35, who currently works as a flooring company tradesman, was involved in refurbishing the clinic’s premises

Horton borrowed £15,000 from her father to set up the business. She was fined £320 and the couple were ordered to pay £4,158 in costs

Horton borrowed £15,000 from her father to set up the business. She was fined £320 and the couple were ordered to pay £4,158 in costs

Mr Wall denied that the clinic was a backstreet one, adding that the couple were intending to seek the proper licence.

Horton was fined £320 and Jones £1,160 and the pair were ordered to pay a total of £4,158 in costs and surcharges.

Sentencing District Judge Jack McGarva told the couple that they had been naive and the consequences could have been very serious.

‘The lack of an adequate Covid infection policy put women at risk. The consequences of dealing with a pregnant woman with Covid could have been horrendous.

‘But if a pregnant woman got Covid, the consequences could have been horrific.’

After the case Debbie Westhead, Director of National Operations at the CQC said: ‘I hope this outcome sends a clear message to others that where we find providers operating outside of the law, we will always use our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account to stop poor and illegal practice.

‘It’s unacceptable that this provider put vulnerable expectant mothers and their babies at risk by running a service without the benefit of CQC registration. 

‘Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm.’

‘I was expecting to have a miscarriage’: Scotland’s unregulated private baby scanning clinics 

A recent investigation by The Ferret has found that just five of the 45 private clinics offering pregnancy scans in Scotland are regulated. 

A loophole means that only private clinics run by healthcare professionals – which does not include sonographers – need to be registered with the regulator, Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Nurse Jennifer McCracken, 23, said she had been told by a private clinic that she had suffered a miscarriage. A follow-up appointment with a local NHS clinic found that the pregnancy was progressing normally and Ms McCracken now has a healthy newborn. 

‘She told us, “You can get a second opinion, but there’s nothing there.”

‘I had to phone off work because I was expecting to have a miscarriage,’ Ms McCracken said. 

‘I spent the weekend in inconsolable floods of tears; every time I went to the toilet I was checking for blood.’ 

Monica Lennon MSP described the findings of the investigation as ‘worrying’ and the loophole should be closed. 

A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advice Service said it was understandable that pregnant women would assume an ultrasound machine was being operated by a technician. 

The charity added that more should be done to regulate the services. 

Healthcare Improvement Scotland said patients should use providers that are registered and regularly inspected in order to be assured about the quality of care.  

Women across Scotland have been warned to use regulated scanners after an investigation found that only five private clinics across the country were regulated (file image)

Women across Scotland have been warned to use regulated scanners after an investigation found that only five private clinics across the country were regulated (file image)

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