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Dietitians: roles in the community and contribution to patient care

02 August 2022
10 min read
Volume 33 · Issue 8

Abstract

Dietitians are increasingly working in community roles. Rebecca Gasche explores the ways in which they can contribute to patient care.

This article focuses on the main areas in which dietitians can impact patient care, particularly within a community setting, as well as discussing the contribution from dietitians in extended roles and working at advanced practice. A range of research papers and national guidance on dietetic practice are discussed to develop a summative article on the scope of their practice. This article aims to provide insight into the work of dietitians in the community – strengthening the understanding of the roles and to demonstrate how dietetic practice can influence patient care as part of a community multidisciplinary team.

Dietitians are the only nutrition specialists who are regulated by a professional body, using evidence-based research to support patients in a variety of health settings. They are registered under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), along with other allied health professions (AHPs), which ensures their practice is regulated by law, is ethical and to appropriate high standards. With pressures across the NHS, including in community nursing, multidisciplinary team (MDT) working and shared care between professions is becoming increasingly important.

Following direction from policies such as the NHS Long Term Plan (2019), there has been an increase in funding for AHPs who can support patients in managing their disease and monitor their wellbeing in the community setting. Areas including malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders have been identified by Health Education England (HEE) (2021) as areas of interest for dietitians, in addition to community patient groups such as home enteral tube feeding (HETF), palliative care, complex conditions and wound healing. These areas will be discussed in further detail, with reference to research papers and national guidance, to demonstrate the roles of dietitians in community patient care.

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