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Emma Emmerson explains how the often misunderstood issue of nutrition and dietetics is so important to the NHS

Wednesday, 19 August, 2020
Emma Emmerson explains how the often misunderstood issue of nutrition and dietetics is so important to the NHS

As the public tuned into news bulletins and special reports during the pandemic, it became much more obvious to people that NHS care relies on a very wide team of different professionals.

The roles of doctors and nurses are probably well understood by most people, but Covid-19 has highlighted the army of healthcare professionals that are needed to provide care both in and out of hospital.

Allied Healthcare Professionals (AHPs) form a vital part of the workforce and in fact are the third largest staff group in the NHS.

Dietitians are an important part of this group and have been playing a crucial role in helping Covid-19 patients recover.

“As part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, dietitians were on the frontline working seven days a week right across the trust, ensuring that our patients were provided with the best nutrition to aid their recovery – from critical care to caring for people in the community,” explains Emma, who is the head of nutrition and dietetics and also the lead AHP at Northumbria Healthcare.

“Dietitians are in high demand at Northumbria because they are a valued member of the wider team and provide input to many patients’ conditions across many different specialities. Health and wellbeing, for the public and our own staff, is more important than ever and dietitians are key to this intervention.”

“We need to be everywhere.”

A dietitian is a regulated health professional that assesses, diagnoses and treats dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level.  In the NHS, dietitians work alongside other healthcare professionals treating complex clinical conditions such as diabetes, food allergy or intolerance, malnutrition, critically-ill patients, obesity, cancer and bowel disorders.

“During the pandemic many people in our team were up-skilled to provide cover in critical areas and those skills will now remain for future need.  To help care for patients during this hugely-challenging time we have all worked together as one across the NHS and helped each other to keep doing our jobs.

“One of the main things that our dietitians have are excellent communication skills and we are now embracing the virtual world to help deliver our clinics in new ways.”

“I will always remember how amazingly well our staff responded to the ever-changing situation of Covid-19. The resilience and positivity of staff has been fantastic to witness.”