Roles of health professionals
Children and young people aged 0 – 25 and their parents and carers may talk to a wide range of health professionals to find support.
The different job roles and titles can become confusing, this page provides information on professionals who may come into contact with children and young people with SEND.
This isn't an extensive list and you may come across other professionals depending on your child or young person's need. If you would like to suggest an addition, please complete our feedback form.
A professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems for individuals from birth through to adulthood.
Children’s community nurses provide care in a variety of settings in the community, including in the home and in educational settings.
The children’s community nurses provide support to families and children through training, advice and direct care for children with a range of nursing needs.
Community learning disability nurse
Children’s community learning disability nurses work with children, families and staff within settings eg schools to help manage behaviour, communication and mental health difficulties, using a variety of skills and techniques.
They work jointly with other professionals who are involved with the child to monitor and review the care needed
Designated Clinical Officers
The three CCGs in Suffolk have appointed Designated Clinical Officers (DCO) whose primary role is:
- Providing advice to local authorities, schools and colleges regarding the health needs of children and young people who may have SEN or disabilities, including navigating the local health system.
- Providing a contact for health providers so that appropriate notification can be given to the local authority of children under compulsory school age who they think may have SEN or disabilities.
- Supporting schools with their duties under the ‘Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions’ guidance.
- The DCO is not routinely involved in assessments or planning for individuals, except in the course of their usual clinical practice, but would be responsible for ensuring that assessment, planning and health support is carried out by health providers.
To contact the DCO for Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG & West Suffolk CCG, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the DCO for Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, email gywccg.SEND@nhs.net
The Film The Designated Medical Officer/ Designated Clinical Officer for SEND role in 2019
Dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems.
For adult patients, they lead teams of community nurses and support workers. They can visit house-bound patients to provide advice and care such as palliative care, wound management, catheter and continence care and medication support.
Family support worker
Family support workers work directly with children and families under the direction of nurses and psychologists to implement agreed plans.
They create and build resource libraries and work with children, young people and families to develop social stories/resource making skills for themselves as well as undertake standardised assessments of children and young people in school and home settings.
Health visitors give help, advice and practical support to families about the care of children under five. This may include sleep patterns, feeding, behaviour and safety. The health visitor will check that the child is growing and developing as expected. Where a child has additional needs, they may be part of a team of professionals working to support the child and family.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development aged 0-5, you should speak to a health visitor. If you do not have a named health visitor, you can request one or speak to your general practitioner (GP).
Learning disability nurse
Children identified as having a learning disability are living longer, more fulfilled lives into adolescence, adulthood and older age. Learning disability nurses play a vital role working across the whole life span in both health and care settings.
The main areas of the role as a learning disability nurse involve:
- improving or maintaining a person’s physical and mental health
- reducing barriers to them living an independent life
- supporting the person in living a fulfilling life
Mental health team
The different child mental health professionals in team usually include:
- child and adolescent psychiatrists – they are medically qualified doctors who specialise in working with young people with mental health problems and their families.
- clinical psychologists – they can assess and help with children’s psychological functioning, emotional wellbeing and development.
- child psychotherapists - they are trained therapists who work with children helping to deal with their emotional and mental health problems
- family therapists - they are trained therapists who work with children and their families together, to help them understand and manage the difficulties that are happening in their lives.
- social workers - they are trained to help children and families needing extra support or help to keep them safe.
- mental health practitioners - they are usually trained in mental health and help in the assessment (understanding) and management of emotional, behavioural and mental health problems.
- Primary Mental Health Workers (PMHWs) - offer consultation, support and guidance to school staff working with children and young people who are showing mild to moderate mental health concerns.
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapists – they are trained in Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It's most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
- Art therapists –they are trained to deliver Art therapy which is a form of psychotherapy in which art-making and artwork is a way of communicating. An art therapist can help you think about ways to manage feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
- Community Mental health nurse or Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN)- they work outside hospitals and visit clients in their own homes, out-patient departments or GP surgeries. They can help you to talk through problems and give practical advice and support. They can also give medicines and keep an eye on their effects. Nurse therapists have had extra training in particular problems and treatments, such as eating disorders or behaviour therapy.
Midwives are specialists in normal pregnancy and birth, and their role is to look after a pregnant woman and her baby throughout a phase of antenatal care, during labour and birth, and for up to 28 days after the baby has been born.
Occupational therapists aim to help children and young achieve their full potential in their ability to play, learn and look after themselves. The aim is to improve a child or young person’s level of independence and quality of life and support families and other carers who are involved with these children and young people.
They can work with a variety of children with special educational needs, disability and complex health difficulties, and work in the setting that is most appropriate for the child, young person or their family/carers, including home, clinic, education setting or respite.
Occupational therapists may be employed by health, social services or charities and the commissioned service may vary depending on where you live.
A paediatrician is a specialist doctor who looks after babies and children. They are often involved, particularly early on, when there are concerns a child may have an impairment or disability.
A paediatrician is able to refer for further medical investigations and diagnosis. They are able to direct children to other paediatric specialists eg therapists, psychologists and specialist nursing services as needed.
Paediatricians can work a variety of places such as hospitals, community clinics and special schools.
Children’s physiotherapists provide specialist assessment and intervention to children and young people who have a range of conditions involving physical and movement difficulties which limit their mobility, function, and/or independence.
They work in a range of locations, including clinics, school and pre-school settings, homes, and respite or voluntary care settings.
Children’s physiotherapists may be employed by NHS, local authority, private or charitable sector providers.
They work with parents and professionals, aiming to help children and young people to reach their physical potential, to achieve improved independence and quality of life.
A podiatrist (chiropodist) can help you with common foot problems, including ingrown toenails and bunions.
The school nursing team provides school nursing services to all school age children and their families from school entry to sixteen years old. Services are provided in all maintained mainstream schools.
Children and young people can be seen in a variety of settings, for example school, health clinics or at home. The team is comprised of qualified school nurses, community staff nurses, and support workers. This service follows on from the services provided by the health visiting teams to children under five.
School nurses provide a variety of services such as providing health and sex education within schools, carrying out developmental screening, advising on individual health issues, undertaking health interviews and administering immunisation programmes.
Specialist children's continence nurse
The specialist children’s continence nurse works with children and young people who are are experiencing difficulties with their bladder and/or bowel. The aim is to help children and young people to achieve continence where possible, to support them to achieve a good quality of life and to avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital. Where full continence is unlikely to be achieved, they aim to support children and families to manage their condition to enable them to access the opportunities available to them.
They work with all children and young people including those with special educational needs, disability and complex health difficulties. They deliver care mainly in the clinic setting but where appropriate will support children and young people in a variety of settings such as home or school.
Speech & language therapist
Speech and Language Therapists work with children and young people with a range of speech, language and communication needs which can include:
- unclear speech
- slow or unusual development of spoken language
- little or no spoken language
- difficulties with chewing or eating and drinking
- difficulties in understanding what people say
- stammered (or stuttered) speech
- voice problems