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The current and future role of the dietetic support worker

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Abstract Background: 

The role of the dietetic support worker (DSW) was developed to provide cost-effective support to dietetic services in the National Health Service (NHS). However, there is little evidence about how the role is perceived or the impact of the introduction of Agenda for Change in 2004 (a guide to pay terms and conditions for NHS staff) on role definition. The present study aimed to gather evidence from DSWs and dietitians on the current role of the DSW to help inform the future development of the role. Methods: 

A questionnaire survey was conducted on DSWs and dietitians in 10 trusts in the East of England. Issues included qualifications, experience, training, satisfaction with Agenda for Change, supervision and responsibility. Themes were further explored by semi-structured telephone interviews conducted on a subsample. Results: 

Eighteen out of 24 DSWs and 62 out of 98 dietitians responded to the questionnaire. The role of the DSW is highly valued by dietitians. Over three-quarters of DSWs and over 90% of dietitians agree that the employment of DSWs improved the working lives of dietitians. Only 50% of DSWs were happy with their Agenda for Change banding, although this did not adversely affect their job satisfaction. Both groups saw the role of the DSW becoming more specialised, despite concerns about access to appropriate training and the lack of a structured career pathway. Conclusions: 

This study identified issues relating to the future development of the role of the DSW from the viewpoint of DSWs and dietetic assistants.
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Keywords: agenda for change; dietetic support worker; dietitian; job satisfaction; role evaluation; training and development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich, UK 2: Health and Social Sciences Research Institute, Faculty of Health, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK 3: Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, James Paget University Hospital, Norfolk, UK 4: Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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