What is a Dietitian?

Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level.  They are regulated by law and governed by an ethical code to ensure that the highest standard of care is always provided.  Dietitians will work with both healthy and unwell people, providing practical guidance in supporting people to make the best and most appropriate lifestyle and food choices for the individual.

When might I see a Dietitian?

You may be referred to a dietitian by your GP in order to address a specific health need or condition, or you may refer yourself to a dietitian, both for a variety of reasons:

  • you suffer with digestive problems
  • you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, coeliac, HIV etc
  • you have oral, enteral or parenteral nutrition requirements
  • your child, or looked after child, has specialised nutritional requirements
  • you are wanting or needing to lose weight in a safe and sensible way
  • you need to put weight on following a spell of ill-health or as the result of a medical condition
  • you are considering surgery to lose weight
  • you want to improve your athletic performance or general fitness levels
  • you want advice about breastfeeding and weaning
  • you want to maximise your chances to become pregnant
  • you think you have an allergy or intolerance to a certain food
  • you would like advice about eating disorders
  • you are a carer and want credible and practical advice to ensure the person/s you are caring for is/are getting the appropriate nutrition in their diet/s.

Where do Dietitians work?

Dietitians work both in the NHS and in private practise, in a variety of settings, including:

  • catering
  • education
  • food industry
  • sport

Dietitians work in a number of healthcare settings including mental health, physical/acute health, learning disabilities and the within the community, often as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams. Some of the conditions that dietitians help to treat include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Bowel Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME
  • Eating Disorders
  • Food Allergies and Intolerances
  • Diabetes

They provide advice to caterers (such as kitchen staff in a nursing home or on a hospital ward) ensuring that all the nutritional needs of the clients are met, as well as planning and implementing public health programmes, and educating other people working within the health and social care setting. Dietitians are also able to provide advice and guidance around diet in order to avoid the side effects and interactions between medications.

What type of treatments do Dietitians offer?

Dietitians do not offer treatments, as such, but rather they will educate and provide practical advice to colleagues, patients, carers, clients and other medical staff. This is done by interpreting the science of nutrition in order improve health and treat diseases and other conditions.  They would also help and advise on dietary trials and interventions, such as exclusion diets (for example, when ruling out causes of IBS) and nutritional supplements.  Dietitians cannot offer advice where there would be personal financial benefit.

As well as offering advice, dietitians can also administer certain prescription-only medicines – such as insulin – through health boards, and adjust any medicines they have administered. However the vast majority of a dietitian’s work is spent advising other medical staff about individual nutritional cases.


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