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Sian O’Dell (left) and Susannah Wilding (right) have both accepted positions as dietitians at Mersey Care and are being supported by the clinical dietitians to complete their training.  

Earlier this month, Health Education England (HEE) - working with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC), professional bodies, Royal Colleges, Council of Deans for Health, Government departments of the four nations, NHS employers and staff side representatives – considered how best to support Allied Health Professions (AHP) students to continue their studies and, where appropriate, use their skills and expertise to support the health and care system during this time of emergency in the safest possible way. (AHPs consist of 14 distinct occupations, which include dietitians. A full list can be found here.) This has been an unparalleled ‘call to arms’ for all AHP students across the country, and especially the University’s own cohorts of undergraduate and postgraduate dietetics students, many of whom have come forward and volunteered to support the NHS during this time.

Dr Tom Butler, programme lead for the BSc degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Chester, said: “The Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition has worked alongside clinical trainers to accelerate student training to a point of more rapid competence, allowing the University to continue to produce dietitians ready to contribute to the health service. Following the announcement from HEE, we have been busy supporting those students who are able to join the HCPC’s temporary register – supporting the drive to train key workers at this vital time - in addition to ensuring that those students who had been displaced from placement know exactly what their options are.

“This has been an enormous team effort with support from the Head of Department, Professor Lynne Kennedy; Clinical Placement Facilitator, Dr Kirsty Martin-McGill; and PG Dietetics Programme Leader, Rob Skinner. We really want to thank our clinical colleagues who have found ways to continue to support our students with their training and have helped make all of this happen, especially considering the pressures they are facing at present.”

Sian O’Dell, final year Nutrition and Dietetics student at the University of Chester, said: “To have the opportunity to be able to complete my training as a dietitian with Mersey Care is amazing. The dietetic team has been so supportive of the continuity of my learning, reaching competencies and further development as a professional. Being able to contribute to the NHS throughout such a difficult period makes me so grateful as a trainee Healthcare Professional to be a part of this service. 

“Whilst this time has been stressful and uncertain for many of us as students, the University staff have made their support known to us, which is relieving and reassuring, along with keeping students in the loop in these ever changing times. The power of food and nutrition in all of our lives is essential for our health and can significantly aid patient recovery. Dietitians are an extremely important part of the patient care process by assisting a number of people with a variety of different nutritional needs. The range and diversity of dietetic work is fulfilling and worthwhile, which makes it very rewarding to be a part of such a dedicated and resilient team.” 

Tom added: “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all students across the globe. We have heard about the great sacrifices and commitments made by NHS staff, as well as student nurses across the country and from our own University who are actively contributing to the NHS and caring for the nation. It really is inspirational to think that our students are actively involved in helping manage this global crisis. As a programme team and Department, we would like to thank our Dietetics students for their commitment and professionalism, and for being part of that fantastic effort, to support the health of the nation. We are extremely proud to say that they are students at the University of Chester.”



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