The nutrition and dysphagia team are based at West Park Hospital in Darlington

About the service

The nutrition and dysphagia team provide integrated speech and language therapy and dietetic services within the trust's mental health service for older people. The nutrition and dysphagia team provides services to older people's inpatient units and community teams.

The specific aims of the nutrition and dysphagia team are:

  • Providing nutrition and swallowing screening, assessment and support
  • Improving awareness and understanding of nutrition, and eating and drinking difficulties
  • Assessment and advice regarding communication difficulties
  • Training for patients, carers and staff
  • Working in partnership with patients and carers
  • Supporting the multidisciplinary team.

Dysphagia is a term used to describe swallowing difficulties. Assessment and advice regarding dysphagia is part of the role of a speech and language therapist.

As the service is relatively new, the team are continuously developing to meet the needs of those using the service and welcome any feedback.

The team

The nutrition and dysphagia team includes:

  • Highly specialist dietitian
  • Specialist dietitians
  • Highly specialist speech and language therapist
  • Specialist speech and language therapist
  • Associate practitioner
  • Nutrition and dysphagia assistant
  • Team secretary.

The team also work closely within the multidisciplinary teams based in inpatient and community settings.

How to access the service

Referrals to the nutrition and dysphagia team come from other trust staff who have identified a need for speech and language therapy and/or dietetic input. Such needs include: difficulties with swallowing food, fluid and/or medication; unplanned weight loss; and difficulties in speaking or understanding. There may be other reasons why people are referred to the team and this should be discussed with the person making the referral.

Once the referral has been received, it will be discussed with the appropriate therapist. A screening may be completed on the telephone prior to the initial appointment. This is normally carried out either by the nutrition and dysphagia team associate practitioner or the nutrition and dysphagia team assistant. The information gathered during the screening will allow for prioritisation and will provide the therapist with relevant information to help with the initial assessment.

Appointments are usually arranged via the telephone, but a letter may be sent with appointment details.

Therapists will carry out visits in people's own homes, care homes, day centres and inpatient units wherever is most convenient.

Initial appointments will vary in length, but usually take around one hour. During the appointment, plans will be made for further assessment, review or therapy and information sheets will be provided.

Reviews will either be carried out by a therapist, associate practitioner or assistant.