There are over 9000 Dietitians registered in the UK, an increase of almost 50% in the last decade. The HCPC publishes the latest registration statistics for dietitians as well as historic information which shows how the profession has grown significantly since 1967.
During these years of expansion, the dietetic workforce has changed. The profession is carrying out extended roles that were unthinkable 10 years ago and have introduced new roles such as dietetic support workers, assistant practitioners and nutritionists to the dietetic workforce. Alongside the increase in NHS employed dietitians, the number of dietitians choosing to work outside the NHS and setting up in private practice has also inceased.
In 2016 it was estimated that within the home nation's national health services the total of all dietetic posts (including support staff) equated to around 5500 whole time equivalent positions. The number of individuals working within these positions will be much higher than 5500 as within dietetic services many posts are part time.
The dietetic workforce is changing at great pace with the profession in demand to work across a plethora of areas including health and social care, public health, industry, sports nutrition, research to name but a few. Alongside the breadth of career opportunities available, there are also significant changes occurring to the structure of well-established organisations such as the NHS and Social care which impact on the role of the dietitian. In these areas, National directives are transforming the way in which care is being delivered, focusing on transferring care out of the acute sector and implementing an integrated care agenda delivered by multidisciplinary teams in community and primary care settings. Advanced level care is prioritized as a way of addressing the needs of an aging population and patients with complex long-term conditions. In addition, there is a push for individuals to engage in self-care activities taking responsibility for their personal health and wellbeing. Dietitians are well placed to respond positively to this agenda as the profession can work flexibly across boundaries and manage change.
In relation to the health and social care arena, there is marked variation in the ability to recruit. Anecdotal feedback suggests that graduate employment of newly qualified dietitians remains strong with NHS managers reporting fewer applicants for some posts and difficulty appointing dietitians in some areas. BDA intelligence and further feedback received from HEI’s indicates that year on year greater number of graduates are accessing careers outside the NHS.
The role of a dietitian within the workforce varies within and between the settings in which they work and according to their position in the Dietetic Career Framework. Experienced and highly skilled advanced practitioners play a significant part in redesigning services and care pathways within financial constraints inorder to most effectively meet the needs of the population they are serving.