Who we work with

Our dietitians work in the speciality of mental health services for older people (MHSOP) which means our clients are usually over 65 years of age.

We see people with a wide range of mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety; to dementia such as Alzheimer's disease; and neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.

Dietitians work closely with speech and language therapists to provide our people with the best possible care.

We receive referrals for people who are inpatients within our Trust and those who are in the community, either in their own homes or in nursing or residential homes.

People are referred for speech and language therapy input or dietetic input or joint input from both specialities.

What we do

Put in very simple terms, a speech and language therapist works to improve how a person eats and drinks and a dietitian looks at improving what they eat.

Our team's main aim is to prevent and treat malnutrition and dehydration in our people however we see any patient whose mental health has affected their dietary intake. This can lead them to become underweight, overweight and/or having an unbalanced diet.

Dysphagia is defined as a difficulty in swallowing caused by neurological or structural damage which interferes with the movement of food and fluid from the mouth to the stomach. Our speech and language therapist's are involved in the assessment, diagnosis and monitoring of swallowing problems and oro-motor function.

They provide recommendations and support to the service user, their carers and other members of the multi disciplinary team regarding appropriate textures, adaptation to consistencies of food and fluid and provide education and practical advice on how to apply their advice. They also provide help and support to people who have communication difficulties.

Our dietitians carry out an assessment of the service user's height, weight, and body mass index and weight history. They estimate the service user's nutritional requirements and assess their current dietary intake, then provide advice and support to people, their carers and other members of the multi disciplinary team on how to improve and/or increase their dietary intake to improve their nutritional status. This is generally referred to as nutritional support. We also provide practical advice on how to fortify the diet, which is basically increasing the calorie and/or protein of foods without increasing the volume and provide suggestions for high calorie snacks and meal ideas.

The Nutrition and Dysphagia Dietetic Team is a trustwide service based at West Park Hospital in Darlington. They continue to support and develop the Trust Pathways and provide supervision to other dietitians and students.