Much has been made of the lack of Nutrition training given to doctors with around 70% reporting that their training in nutrition amounted to around 2 hours and yet research is consistently showing that nutrition plays a part in almost all chronic diseases.
Knowing which type of health professional you need to help with your diet and health can be confusing – who do you turn to a Dietician? A nutritionist? A nutritional therapist? What’s the difference and does it even matter?
In this article I hope to provide you with some useful information and signpost you to the right people.
Should I see a Nutritionist or a Dietician?
Dieticians are medically qualified to treat certain conditions whereas a Registered Nutritional Therapist is recognised as offering complimentary medicine – i.e. they can help support your health and wellbeing but they can’t offer treatment.
Before you see a Nutritionist or a Dietician the first stop with health concerns should be your GP. Whilst your GP isn’t a nutrition specialist they should be able to diagnose your health concern and tell you your options.
Once your GP has investigated your health concern, and advised on any recommended treatment protocols, you can investigate what other therapies can complement this.
It may also be that your GP has given you the health all-clear and is not able to offer solutions to your health concerns, but your symptoms are still impacting your life.
Who can help with my diet and health?
There are many terms for practitioners who can help with your diet and health but it is important to note that not all are regulated, having achieved a recognised standard of education and completing ongoing professional development each year.
The two key types of nutrition practitioners who are regulated (statutory or voluntarily) are Dietician and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist. These practitioners have different roles in health care. The key differences are below:
Registered Dietician CNHC
Because dietitians are regulated healthcare professionals, they are qualified to treat certain medical conditions. Typically, a dietitian will advise people with special dietary needs such as those with kidney disease, diabetes or cancer.
- Many work principally within the NHS
- They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- Must be trained to university degree level or above
- The British Dietetic Association is the single professional body for dietitians and is responsible for the design of the curriculum
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Nutritional therapy is recognised as complementary medicine, appropriate for both those with chronic conditions and those looking to prevent future illness. Registered Nutritional Therapists :
- can help to play a role in the treatment of symptoms caused by an illness, and in the optimisation of good health.
- Often work with chronic conditions such as allergies, digestive and bowel disorders, hormonal imbalances, and weight management
- Help individuals to meet their individual health goals
- Take into account the unique dietary needs of each individual
- Are voluntarily regulated nutritional therapists that have completed the minimum national standards of training and adhere to the CNHC Code of Conduct and Performance and Ethics
- Demonstrate commitment to high professional standards according to the AVR scheme
CNHC registered nutritional therapists
The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) is a professional body set up with government support to protect the public. Members who register with the CNHC refer to themselves as ‘CNHC registered nutritional therapists’. To be eligible for registration, they must have undertaken training that meets the minimum national standards of practice – as set by the Nutritional Therapy National Occupational Standards and the Nutritional Therapy Core Curriculum.
The CNHC is unique because it provides a voluntary register of complementary therapists, approved as an Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. It is, for this reason, a number of UK professional bodies, including the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) will only accept members who have registered with the CNHC.
Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR)
In 2013, the Department of Health (DoH) launched the Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) scheme, which was put into place to provide a layer of protection for members of the public looking for health and care services not regulated by law.
As there is currently no official regulation in place for nutritional therapists, the CNHC is one of several industry professional bodies to have established their own register which professionals can voluntarily opt to join.
Under the AVR scheme, these independent registers can apply to be assessed by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) – the standard-setting body for health and social care voluntary registers. Upon meeting their criteria, a voluntary register will then become accredited by the AVR.
If you choose to see a nutritional therapist who belongs to a professional body assessed and ‘accredited’ by the AVR, this demonstrates a commitment to high professional standards.
Yvonne Bishop Weston – CNCH Registered Nutritional Therapist
Yvonne Bishop-Weston has a science degree majoring in psychology and completed a three-year Nutritional Therapy diploma with the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. She is registered with the British Association for Nutritional Therapy (BANT), and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), and completes a minimum of 30 hours of ongoing professional development each year. She has been practising for 16 years.
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