Healthcare professionals working with children

Healthcare professionals working with children

If your child has a disability, it is likely that they will meet a variety of healthcare professionals. This page attempts to list a range of them and explain what they do. It also has information on how to find out if your health professional is registered.


Dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition 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 in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, NGOs and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.

Most people will be able to see a Registered Dietitian within the NHS after being referred by an NHS GP, doctor, health visitor or other medical staff. You can also self-refer. Alternatively if you wish to see a Registered Dietitian who practises privately, you can search on-line for a dietitian near you at Freelance Dietitians.

Find out more though the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

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Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists work with people who have a physical disability, a medical condition, a mental health difficulty or a learning disability. They help individuals who have difficulties with everyday tasks, such as preparing a meal, taking a bath, going up stairs or lifting their legs into bed.

The aim of occupational therapy is to enable individuals to live as independently as possible, whether at home, at work or at school/college. The occupational therapist can help individuals to adapt to changes in their everyday life and to overcome practical problems. They may do this by providing advice, recommending ways an everyday task can be done differently or recommending equipment or alterations for an individuals home. Occupational therapists work in health, social care or private practice and work closely with health, housing and educational services.

If you qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant towards the cost of adapting your home then an occupational therapist is involved in the assessment process.

To enquire about an assessment with an occupational therapist contact your local social services. You can obtain their contact details by entering your postcode on the directgov website.

Alternatively, if you wish to obtain private assessment or advice then you can search for a private occupational therapist on the College of Occupational Therapy's online directory of independent occupational therapists.

Find out more through the British Association/College of Occupational Therapy (BAOT), or watch this short film from the BAOT explaining what occupational therapists do:

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Orthotists provide a range of splints, braces and special footwear to aid movement, correct deformity and relieve discomfort. They work collaboratively with other health-care professionals to provide integrated treatment.

Orthotists provide orthotic management for people with a wide range of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, diabetes, and strokes.

Orthotists assess the patient's needs, diagnose the problem and treat the patient by prescribing the most suitable orthosis (a device to support or control part of the body) to meet these requirements.

Find out more through the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists.

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Physiotherapists have specialist skills in the physical treatment and rehabilitation of people. Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function to as near normal as possible when someone is affected by injury, illness or by developmental or other disability.

Physiotherapists use a number of different techniques including manipulation and mobilisation, massage, hydrotherapy, exercise programmes, electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound) and in some cases acupuncture.

Chartered physiotherapists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, health centres, GP practices, schools, work places, private clinics and also by visiting people at home. If you are a UK resident the three main treatment routes to see a physiotherapist are via the NHS, via private practitioners and via the independent sector. It's also possible to get treatment through less common routes such as charities and the voluntary sector.

If you are searching for a physiotherapist for private treatment in your local area make sure they are chartered and registered. You can search on Physio First or through the Chartered Society's service, Physio2u.

Find out more through the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

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Social worker

Social workers are professionally qualified staff who assess the needs of service users and plan the individual packages of care and support that best help them. Social workers form partnerships with people: helping them to assess and interpret the problems they face, and supporting them in finding solutions. They have to know how the law works and be fully up to speed with the social welfare system.

Social workers liaise regularly with other professionals - teachers, doctors, nurses, police, lawyers - acting on behalf of the people they are working with.

Roles include providing assistance and advice to keep families together; working in children's homes; managing adoption and foster care processes; providing support to younger people leaving care or who are at risk or in trouble with the law; or helping children who have problems at school or are facing difficulties brought on by illness in the family.

Most social workers are employed by a local government social services department. But they also work for local education authorities, hospital trusts, and charities.

If you wish to arrange to see an independent social worker, you can search on the British Association of Social Workers directory.

Find out more at the British Association of Social Workers.

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Speech & language therapist

The role of a speech and language therapist (SLT) is to assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in people of all ages to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability. They may also work with people who have eating and swallowing problems.

SLTs assist children and adults who have the following types of problems: difficulty producing and using speech; difficulty understanding language; difficulty using language; difficulty with feeding, chewing or swallowing; a stammer; a voice problem.

SLTs work in a variety of settings, these include: hospitals (both inpatients and outpatients); community health centres; mainstream and special schools; assessment units and day centres; clients homes.

Most speech and language therapists work for the NHS. If you think you or your child needs to see a speech and language therapist ask your GP, district nurse, health visitor, or your child's nursery staff or teacher for a referral. You can also refer yourself to your local speech and language therapy service. You do not have to wait for someone else to refer you.

Alternatively, if you would like to arrange an assessment with an independent (private) SLT, you can search on the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice's website.

Find out more through the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

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How do you know if your health professional is registered?

All dietitians, occupational therapists, orthotists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists are required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulatory body. The HCPC is responsible for the conduct, performance and ethical behaviour of its registrants. Professionals who do not meet the standards of practice, conduct and behaviour required by the HCPC are removed ('struck off') from the HCPC register.

Visit the HCPC website to check the registration status of your health professional.

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Advice last checked: 05 February 2018 Next check due: 05 February 2021

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement


  1. Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists 2006  How to find a speech and language therapist
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