Why Nutritional Therapists Should be in NHS Primary Care


As the National Health Service (NHS) celebrates its 75th anniversary, the nation has been reflecting on NHS accomplishments. Public opinion is clear – we all want to maintain the right to free health care at the point of delivery. However, with the increasing burden of chronic disease and the limitations of conventional medicine, it is time for change. The incorporation of nutritional therapy into NHS primary care could revolutionise patient care and outcomes. An existing untapped resource is the network of 3,500 BANT registered nutritional therapy practitioners. This blog explores why nutritional therapists should be in NHS primary care.

Nutritional Therapist working in NHS primary care
Modifiable Lifestyle Diseases

The Burden of Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, pose a significant threat to the future of the NHS, unless change is made and made soon. In the UK alone, it is estimated that over 15 million people are living with at least one chronic condition. That is a lot of people! These diseases not only reduce the quality of life for individuals but also place a heavy burden on healthcare resources. And the reality is that conventional medicine has little to offer when it comes to chronic disease resolution. It is also why nutritional therapists should be in NHS primary care.

An existing untapped resource is the network of 3,500 BANT registered nutritional therapy practitioners

The Limitations of the Conventional Medical Model

While the conventional medical model has undoubtedly made significant advancements in treating acute illnesses and emergencies, it often falls short when it comes to managing chronic conditions. Standard treatments for chronic diseases often involve long-term medication use. This may alleviate some of the symptoms but is never without side effects. They also frequently fail to achieve the ultimate goal of wellness. At the recent 2023 Integrated and Personalised Medicine Congress in London, GPs were expressing frustration at their inability to help their patients, coupled with an interest in what Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioners do. They want to train to work like us. This is a great medium to long term strategy, but why not tap into the knowledge already existing in Nutritional Therapy consultation rooms across the country?

The Role of Diet and Lifestyle

Delicious, varied meal
Delicious, varied meal

Research has shown that chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, are closely linked to lifestyle factors, particularly diet. Modifiable lifestyle factors, including poor nutrition, physical inactivity, disturbed sleep and stress, contribute significantly to the development and progression of these conditions. Recognising the impact of diet and lifestyle allows us to explore alternative approaches to care and prevention.

Why not tap into the knowledge already existing in Nutritional Therapy consultation rooms across the country?

Modifiability of Chronic Disease with Diet and Lifestyle

Nutritional therapy focuses on using food and dietary interventions to prevent disease and optimise health. We adopt a personalised approach, get to know our patients concerns and ambitions and then help patients make sustainable changes to their diet and lifestyle. Numerous studies have demonstrated the profound impact of diet on managing and even reversing some previously intractable chronic diseases.

The Effectiveness of Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy is a key part in managing “syndrome” conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia. These conditions often lack a clear etiology and can be challenging to treat with conventional medicine alone. By addressing the unique nutritional needs of each patient, nutritional therapists can offer effective solutions for managing symptoms and improving overall well-being. Clare works routinely with individuals who have a dual diagnosis of fibromyalgia and IBS. If you would like to find out more about how she works in collaboration with your GP, book a free call here.

Why Nutritional Therapists should be in NHS Primary Care

Integrating nutritional therapists into NHS primary care could mean that in 25 years time, we will be ready to celebrate the 100th year of the NHS. It could be thriving once more, along with the UK population. We need to empower patients to take an active role in their health by providing them with personalised dietary advice and support. This can be done on an individual basis or in groups. By integrating nutritional therapists into NHS primary care, there would be reduced reliance on medications, better patient compliance and improved health outcomes. And more time for doctors to do the amazing job they trained for.

The Difference Between Nutritional Therapists and Dieticians

Whilst some nutrition professionals like to think that nutritional therapy practice is not scientific-based, they are wrong. Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are trained in critical appraisal of the science at college and are required to keep their knowledge up-to-date with 30 hours of CPD every year. In reality, we do much more than this. BANT owns and runs a nutrition and lifestyle science database called Nutrition Evidence, where Clare works as Managing Editor.

Healthcare professionals networking for optimal outcomes for patients
Healthcare professionals networking for optimal outcomes for patients

What is different is the way that we practice. Both Nutritional Therapists and Dieticians are trained in clinical skills, but only NTs are trained in personalised nutrition practice. This is what GPs were all over at IPM. This is what is needed in NHS primary care. And we have the people-power trained, experienced and ready to go in the form of Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioners.

As the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary, we can make one simple change. By recognising the modifiability of chronic diseases with diet and lifestyle interventions and embracing the effectiveness of nutritional therapy for conditions like IBS and fibromyalgia, we can usher in a new era of patient-centred care within the NHS. This is why nutritional therapy should be in NHS primary care. Let’s get nutritional therapy out of private practice and the hands of the few, and into public health provision, available to all.

If you would like to know more about how changing your diet and lifestyle may impact your health, have a read here and here. Or get in touch. I work routinely with people with chronic digestive and pain conditions and would be happy to talk you through the process.

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