Multi-disciplinary teams - who's who?

Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce risk of injury or illness in the future.

Physiotherapists consider the body as a whole, rather than just focusing on the individual aspects of an injury or illness.

Some of the main approaches used by physiotherapists include:

  • education and advice – physiotherapists can give general advice about things that can affect your daily lives, such as posture and correct lifting or carrying techniques to help prevent injuries
  • movement, tailored exercise and physical activity advice – exercises may be recommended to improve your general health and mobility, and to strengthen specific parts of your body
  • manual therapy – where the physiotherapist uses their hands to help relieve pain and stiffness, and to encourage better movement of the body

Physiotherapy can be helpful for people of all ages with a wide range of health conditions, including problems affecting the:

Physiotherapy can improve your physical activity while helping you to prevent further injuries.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists provide support to people whose health prevents them doing the activities that matter to them. An occupational therapist can identify strengths and difficulties you may have in everyday life, such as dressing or getting to the shops, and will help you work out practical solutions.

They can work with you to identify goals that can help you maintain, regain, or improve your independence by using different techniques, changing your environment, and using new equipment.

Occupational therapy is used when someone is having difficulty with everyday tasks. This could be because they have a:

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life, from the home to the school or workplace.

Speech and language therapist

Speech and language therapists support children/young people with speech, language and communication needs and those with feeding and swallowing difficulties. Speaking and eating uses the same muscles and speech and language therapists are specially trained to help with specific difficulties with feeding and swallowing.

Therapists work with children/young people who may have one or more of the following difficulties:

  • unclear speech (speech sounds)
  • not understanding what is being said (understanding of spoken language)
  • vocabulary and putting words together into sentences (spoken language)
  • mixing with other children and adults (social communication skills)
  • only speaking in certain situations (selectively mute)
  • stammering or stuttering
  • hoarse or husky sounding voice
  • hearing impairment / deafness.

Speech and language therapists will assess the skills, exact abilities, difficulties and needs. This may include one or more of the following:

  • formal assessments or tests
  • informal based play assessments
  • watching the child at nursery, school or home to see how they communicate or eat/drink
  • talking with those who know them best and speaking to other professionals involved in their care.

Psychiatrist

A doctor who works in psychiatry is called a psychiatrist . Psychiatry is a medical field concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions.

Unlike other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and counsellors, psychiatrists must be medically qualified doctors who have chosen to specialise in psychiatry. This means they can prescribe medication as well as recommend other forms of treatment.

Mental health conditions that may be diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist include:

Psychiatrists may also provide psychological support for people with long-term, painful or terminal physical health conditions.

Dietitian

Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

Dietitians work with healthy and sick people in a variety of settings. They often work as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams to treat complex clinical conditions such as diabetes, food allergy and intolerance, eating disorders, malnutrition, kidney failure and bowel disorders. A key role of a dietitian is to train and educate other health and social care workers. They cannot offer advice where there would personal financial benefit.

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. Only those registered with statutory regulator, the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) can use the title of 'dietitian'. The minimum requirement is a BSc Hons in Dietetics, or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics.

The term 'nutritionist' is not currently protected by the Health Professionals Council and so its use is less precise than 'dietitian'. Indeed, currently, anyone regardless of qualifications, experience and skills can call herself or himself a 'nutritionist'. Some nutritionists are also registered dietitians. Association for Nutrition (AfN) is the professional body for qualified nutritionists. The AfN maintains the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN), a competency-based register of individuals who are qualified and competent in nutritional science and practice.

Hide this section
Show accessibility tools