Within DoH the term "allied health professions" refers to the following 12 professional groups.

Arts therapy

Is a generic term describing the three professions of art therapy, music therapy and dramatherapy.

The art therapist uses art materials to encourage individuals self-expression and reflection. The overall aim of its practitioners is to enable a client to effect change and growth on a personal level through the use of art materials in a safe and facilitating environment.

Links for arts therapy

Dietetics

Dietitians are registered with the Health Professions Council. They specialise in nutritional assessment which is used together with clinical information to prescribe appropriate dietary treatment. Diet is the cornerstone of treatment in many conditions such as diabetes, coeliac disease, malnutrition, renal and hepatic diseases and certain paediatric disorders.

The dietitian's overall aim is to educate patients to make informed food choices required for the dietary management of their condition and to ensure nutritional needs are met. They also have a key role in the management of artificial feeding and support to family and carers when required. Dietitians have a major role in nutrition and health promotion initiatives and disease prevention programmes. They liaise with other health professionals and key personnel in a variety of community settings.

Where do dietitians work?

Hospitals

After qualifying, most dietitians work clinically in the National Health Service where they advise on therapeutic diets. Dietitians work in a variety of wards, ranging from general medical and surgical wards to more specialised areas, including intensive care, paediatrics or renal dietetics. They are also involved in training other health care professionals within the hospital.

Community

Community dietitians are involved in health promotion, clinical work, or a mixture of both. They help to promote healthy food choices and prevent disease by increasing awareness of the link between nutrition and health. They may work with GPs, practice nurses, health visitors, schools and voluntary groups.

The food and pharmaceutical industry

Many dietitians work directly for a food manufacturer, food retailer, or a pharmaceutical company, or they may work with a public relations company representing an industry. Dietitians are there to give unbiased advice on nutrition, produce nutritional literature, respond to customer concerns and set nutritional standards for the companies.

Sports nutrition

Sports dietitians provide expert practical and evidence-based advice on all areas of nutrition for sport. They help athletes, coaches and their associated professionals understand how optimum hydration and nutrition may help athletes improve performance.

Freelance

Many dietitians choose to be self-employed and seek opportunities to work within a wide range of areas, including private clinical practice, media, and publishing for magazines and books.

Research

Many dietitians choose to work in research in order to initiate and evaluate new ways of working in the field of nutrition and dietetics, to evaluate and improve treatment and to keep other health professionals informed about research outcomes.

Links for dietetics

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists treat and rehabilitate people with physical and mental health conditions, through specific selected activities, for the purpose of enabling individuals who are temporarily or permanently disabled to reach their maximum level of function and independent in all aspects of life.

Links for occupational therapy

Orthoptics

Orthoptists are registered as allied health professionals with the Health Professions Council. They are an important part of the eye care team, working in close association with ophthalmologists and optometrists, usually in a hospital-based setting. They assess, diagnose and treat visual function problems, abnormalities of eye movements and dysfunction of eye co-ordination in children and adults, such as squint, amblyopia/lazy eye and double vision.

Orthoptists are involved in many areas of care, including paediatrics, neurology, community services, rehabilitation, geriatrics, neonatology, maxillo-facial surgery and ophthalmic technology. Their specialised training enables them to assess visual functions in non-verbal patients, such as patients who are deemed to have special needs or stroke patients with diminished communication skills.

After orthoptic investigation, treatment and management aims to achieve the maximum visual potential and to relieve symptoms, underpinned by education and counselling to both patient and carer. Orthoptic treatment may be a combination of occlusion, eye exercises, optical, pharmaceutical or surgical intervention based on the orthoptist's assessment.

Links for orthoptics

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists are experts in movement, from the way we move our backs or limbs, to the way we breathe.

It is an enabling profession, restoring function and activity, and preventing illness and injury, giving people the independence to remain in work and in their own homes.

Physiotherapy is a health care profession concerned with human function and movement and maximising potential:

  • it uses physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being, taking account of variations in health status
  • it is science-based, committed to extending, applying, evaluating and reviewing the evidence that underpins and informs its practice and delivery
  • the exercise of clinical judgement and informed interpretation is at its core

Links for physiotherapy

Podiatry

Podiatrists specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of disease and conditions affecting the feet and lower limbs. Their training enables them to assess the vascular, neurological and orthopaedic status of the patient’s lower limbs. Following assessment, treatment is focused on relieving symptoms and maintaining functional independence. 

A number of podiatrists specialise in particular areas such as diabetes, rheumatology, sports injuries, bio-mechanics, high risk wound healing and are part of multidisciplinary teams in areas such as rehabilitation and community development.

The majority of podiatrists work within the health service either full or part-time and many have private practices.

Some have completed advanced training in minor foot surgery and perform bone surgery on the foot.

Health promotion is an important role for podiatrists with some moving full-time into this field.

The Northern Ireland managers group are currently involved in strategy development in common with other AHP colleagues and have recently agreed protocols and procedures for student placements within the province.

Links for podiatry

Prosthetics

Prosthetists are autonomous registered practitioners who provide gait analysis and engineering solutions to patients with limb loss. They are extensively trained at undergraduate level in mechanics, bio-mechanics, and material science along with anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology.

Their qualifications make them competent to design and provide prostheses that replicate the structural or functional characteristics of the patients absent limb. They are also qualified to modify CE marked prostheses or componentry taking responsibility for the impact of any changes.

They treat patients with congenital loss as well as loss due to diabetes, reduced vascularity, infection and trauma. Military personnel are forming an increasing part of their caseload. Whilst they are autonomous practitioners they usually work closely with physiotherapists and occupational therapists as part of multidisciplinary amputee rehabilitation teams.

Links for prosthetics and orthotics

Radiography

The radiography profession includes both diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers.

Diagnostic radiographers

Employ a range of different imaging techniques and sophisticated equipment to produce high quality images of an injury or disease. Diagnostic radiographers will take the images and very often report on them so that the correct treatment can be given. They use a range of techniques including x-rays, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), nuclear medicine, and angiography.

Therapeutic radiographers

Have a vital role in the delivery of radiotherapy services for the treatment of cancer. They are the only healthcare professionals qualified to plan and deliver radiotherapy. They work with clinical oncologists, medical physicists and engineers and are responsible for the planning and delivery of accurate radiotherapy treatments using a wide range of technical equipment. The accuracy of these are critical to treat the tumour and destroy the diseased tissue, while minimising the amount of exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

Links for radiography

 

Speech and language therapy

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) was established on 6 January 1945 to promote the art and science of speech and language therapy – the care for individuals with communication, swallowing, eating and drinking difficulties. Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are allied health professionals. They work closely with parents, carers and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors.

The RCSLT is the professional body for speech and language therapists in the UK; providing leadership and setting professional standards. The RCSLT facilitates and promotes research into the field of speech and language therapy, promotes better education and training of speech and language therapists and provides information for our members and the public about speech and language therapy.

Links for speech and language therapy

Dramatherapy

The Dramatherapist's main focus is the intentional use of healing aspects of drama and theatre in a therapeutic process, working and playing using action methods to facilitate creativity, imagination, learning, insight and growth.

Music therapy

Music therapy is an established clinical discipline which is widely used to help people of all ages whose lives have been affected by injury, illness, disability, or major life events.

In Northern Ireland music therapists work in a wide range of settings, within statutory agencies, charities and the community, across all age groups. The work has a decisive impact on the lives of hundreds of people every day.

The unique properties of music therapy mean it has the potential to play a vital role in sustaining the health and wellbeing of our society into the future.

Priority areas of public health, care and social wellbeing, such as maximising opportunities for vulnerable children, improving adult mental wellbeing and caring for the growing number of people affected by dementia, are all areas where music therapy has shown it has an important contribution to make. There is a significant body of research and publication that proves the efficacy of music therapy.

The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) is the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement for the general public. BAMT works locally and nationally to promote and raise the profile of music therapy in the UK.

Links for music therapy

Orthotics

Orthotists are autonomous registered practitioners who provide gait analysis and engineering solutions to patients with problems of the neuro, muscular and skeletal systems.

They are extensively trained at undergraduate level in mechanics, bio-mechanics, and material science along with anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology. Their qualifications make them competent to design and provide orthoses that modify the structural or functional characteristics of the patients' neuro-muscular and skeletal systems enabling patients to mobilise, eliminate gait deviations, reduce falls, reduce pain, prevent and facilitate healing of ulcers.

They are also qualified to modify CE marked Orthoses or componentry taking responsibility for the impact of any changes. They treat patients with a wide range of conditions including Diabetes, Arthritis, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Spina Bifida, Scoliosis, MSK, sports injuries and trauma. Whilst they often work as autonomous practitioners they increasingly often form part of multidisciplinary teams such as within the diabetic foot team or neuro-rehabilitation team.

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