Find a dietitian or nutritionist to help your COVID-19 recovery

Information to help you find a dietitian or nutritionist

This section helps you understand how to find high quality advice and support if you want to alter your diet.

If you change one food or nutrient and the whole diet changes with it, putting yourself at risk of inadvertent nutrient deficiency or excess if you are not careful. This is why expert dietary advice is needed if you plan to make significant changes to your diet.

Many people claim to be able to advise others on diet and nutrition, but they do not all have the best training. 

On this page we explain what qualifications to look for, how nutritionists and dietitians differ and how to find an expert to help you.

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

Registered Dietitians (RDs)

Registered Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level. They work with both healthy and sick people. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard


Nutritionists

Nutritionists work in different roles including public health, health improvement, health policy, local and national government, in the private sector, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and in education and research. Nutritionists are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating. However, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, however only registrants with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) can call themselves a Registered Nutritionist (RNutrs). RNutrs are not permitted by law to call themselves dietitians.


Nutritional therapists and diet experts

Nutritional therapists encompass the use of recommendations for diet and lifestyle in order to alleviate or prevent ailments, often based on complementary ‘medicine’ recommendations not recognised as valid treatment in conventional medicine. These recommendations may include guidance on detoxification, colonic irrigation, the avoidance of ingestion or inhalation of ‘toxins’ or ‘allergens’ and the use of supplementary nutrients. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, a nutritional therapist, a clinical nutritionist or a diet expert. They are not permitted by law to call themselves dietitians. They do not have a degree level qualification.


If you would like more details, you can look at:

How to get a referral on the NHS

You will be able to find a dietitian within the NHS after being referred by your GP practice, or multi-disciplinary team. Your GP may make this referral or you may request a referral yourself. 

Why not contact the Dietetic department at your local hospital to enquire whether they operate a ‘self-referral’ system? Consultations with dietitians within the NHS are free.

For more tips on how to communicate with your health professional, you can watch 'Psychological wellbeing and communication with healthcare professionals', a short video with useful links by our clinical psychologist Chandanee Kotecha on our Nutrition and COVID-19 Recovery webpage.


Care homes

If you or your relative live in a care home and feel you need more nutritional advice you will need to ask the care home staff to refer you. You may wish to complete the Patient Association Nutrition Checklist to see what nutritional advice you may need. This is available to download from the Malnutrition Task Force website.

How to find a registered dietitian

In case you are not a candidate for the NHS referral or services are constrained in your area, the Freelance Dietitians website allows you to find a registered freelance dietitian qualified to help you. These dietitians work privately and so there may be a charge or it may be covered by your health insurance.

How to find a registered nutritionist

It is a personal preference or a matter of availability as to whether you choose to seek the advice of a dietitian or registered nutritionist. Dietitians are trained to manage disease by adapting diet, which is not part of a nutritionist’s training.

You can find out whether the person advising you is a registered nutritionist on the Association for Nutrition website.

Checking registration with the Health and Care Professions Council

All dietitians must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council in order to practice. If your dietitian is not registered with the HCPC they are operating illegally. You can check if your dietitian is registered on the HCPC website. 

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