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As with most scientific professions, dietetics is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the service and service users.  The settings in which dietetics is practiced changed considerably over the years. Although the majority of dietitians still work within the National Health Service (NHS), a growing number work in a variety of diverse settings, from industry to television, sports nutrition to website development.

As dietetics has evolved, so have dietitians; constantly adapting and challenging the traditional professional boundaries.

The primary concern for any practitioner in any role, will be the safety of the patient or service user. Key to this is the requirement for all healthcare professionals to only act within personal scope of practice.

Identifying scope of practice is not easy as the boundaries will be different for each practitioner and will evolve over time. When an individual defines their own scope, it is a broad picture of their practice and may describe some or all of the following:

Occupational role For example: clinician, researcher, education
Sector    private practice, industry, higher education
Environment  acute, community, GP practice
Client Group  children, elderly, people with learning difficulties
Speciality     diabetes, public health, obesity
Treatment approaches    behavioural therapy, group education
Types of cases requiring referral onward   other dietitians, speech therapist, podiatrist

A much more specific scope of practice is described in relation to individual patients/clients or circumstances.  When presented with a patient, it is important to undertake a personal risk assessment as part of the overall assessment – asking key questions before proceeding:

  • Is the patient/client safe?
  • Am I safe?
  • Can I justify the decision I have made during the assessment (for example have the research, evidence, standards, guidance been considered)?
  • Can I identify the most appropriate approach for the patient/client group?
  • Do I have the correct balance skills, knowledge and experience to be competent in my chosen approach?

Whatever role undertaken, there must constantly be an awareness of individual scope of practice, and practice must be restricted to this.

On these pages you will find information on current and developing roles for the dietetic workforce.