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The role of the Primary Care Network Dietitian

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Here at THC Primary Care, we provide a range of resources for Primary Care Network leaders, which includes guiding you through the various Primary Care Network roles.


I am delighted to introduce you to Primary Care Dietitians CEO and blog sponsor Aaron Boysen.


Primary Care Dietitians support Primary Care Networks in the UK to deliver a First Contact Dietitian service, via the NHS Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) funding. They are currently working with 40 PCNs, with 54 roles commissioned at present.


Their main focus is provision of high-quality, in-practice dietitians to support in reducing overall practice workload, and to enable networks to offer a more holistic care approach to their patients.


Primary Care Dietitians not only assist with the recruitment of a dietitian, but they also work collaboratively with their partner networks to implement and continually review the dietitian service as a whole.


To help networks better understand the role and value a dietitian can bring, I sat down with Aaron and discussed:


1. What do PCNs look for when recruiting a dietitian?

2. The skills a dietitian can offer

3. How to successfully embed a dietitian and get the most from the service

4. The ways in which a dietitian can support the work of the PCN

5. The most common misconceptions of the role


Let’s jump in!



The Role of the Primary Care Network Dietitian Featuring Primary Care Dietitians


1. What are PCNs looking for when recruiting a dietitian?


Aaron: This obviously varies from network to network, depending on patient need and demand. The most common reasons for recruiting a dietitian are:


➡️ To support patients with weight management or weight loss

➡️ To support with the management of patients with Type 2 diabetes

➡️ To support with the management of patients with gastrointestinal issues

➡️ To provide additional support to care homes



2. What skills can a dietitian offer, more specifically?


Aaron: Primary Care Dietitians, as an organisation, offer a first contact, in-practice service model but this can be flexible dependent on the network’s estates setup and what they require. Their dietitians are generally experienced and trained to an advanced level, and are skilled in the following areas:


Offering general and more holistic advice to patients related to diet, nutrition, weight management and conducting blood pressure checks.


Supporting with management of care home patients with issues such as bedsores or more generally, where there is evidence of poor nutrition and/or dehydration and where a comprehensive nutrition plan is needed.


Reviewing and management of patients with Type 2 diabetes. Dietitians can work alongside or potentially, independently from, the Advanced Nurse Practitioners to manage foot and blood checks, review and monitor diabetes-related to frailty and support patients with the achievement of their QOF. indicators.


Dietitians are competent in the management of gastrointestinal problems such as IBS and coeliac disease. They are also able to recognise and triage any related red flags and refer for specialist support when required.


Assistance with paediatric needs such as fussy eating and protein and cow’s milk allergies, e.g.


With investment in training and development, dietitians have the potential to support clinicians in identifying underlying conditions; they can order bloods, refer, and request further investigations or treatments and eventually, conduct independent clinical examinations with the skills they have learned.



3. Five top tips for embedding your new dietitian - and for developing the service


In no particular order....


1️⃣ Allow your dietitian time to get to know and understand the primary care landscape as it may be their first time working within the sector.


2️⃣ Offer your dietitian the opportunity to shadow other members of the team. Not just GPs and ANPs, but the physiotherapists, pharmacists, social prescribers, and care navigators (to name a few).


3️⃣ Get your dietitian to spend time with your receptionists to work through coordination and navigation of patients to the service and to identify where the dietitian can support with the capacity and access agenda.


4️⃣ Ensure there is a system of regular catch-ups in place (between the dietitian and their line manager and between the network and the agency that has provided you with your dietitian). This will enable you to regularly review progress, make improvements where required, and identify ways to increase network capacity and potentially, to extend the service.


5️⃣ Keep on top of the data and take a proactive approach to monitoring outcomes and getting patient feedback on the service.



4. If PCNs employ a dietitian, will this free up more GP appointments?

As with all of the additional roles, practices may see an initial spike in appointment numbers (where the dietitian could take on management of overdue patient reviews, for example) however, in the long term, there is a demonstrable improvement in patient care which will support with the achievement of practice QOF indicators and may lead to a decrease in the number of required GP contacts.



5. What are the common misconceptions or barriers in understanding the value of a dietitian?

Networks are frequently surprised by the extent of their dietitian’s skills and experience, and of the seniority of the dietitians available to them. There is also a widespread lack of understanding of how impactful this role can be in terms of offering holistic assessment spanning a cross-section of clinical areas


If you would prefer to listen to this topic in the form of a podcast, please check out episode 252 of our Business of Healthcare podcast.


And to find out more, get in touch with CEO Aaron directly and please check out the Primary Care Dietitians website. You can also find Primary Care Dietitians via your preferred social media channel:



I hope this has been helpful.



 

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About the Author

I'm Tara; I am the founder of THC Primary Care, an award-winning healthcare consultancy specialising in Primary Care Network Management and the host of the Business of Healthcare Podcast, where we have now published over 240 episodes.



I have over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sectors.



I have managed teams across multiple sites and countries; I have an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, I'm published in the London Journal of Primary Care, and I am the author of over 250 blogs.



I have 3 children. My eldest has Asthma, my middle child has a kidney condition called Nephrotic Syndrome, and my youngest daughter has Type 1 Diabetes, so outside of work, healthcare plays a huge role in my life.


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