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IBS Treatment

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the Public Health Sector

August 4, 2023

My name is Aoife McDonald, founder of the Digestive Health Clinic, one of Ireland’s leading dietetic, nutrition and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) specialists. Today, we are asking a question that is relevant to many sufferers of IBS - what public health services are available to help you treat your IBS symptoms? In this article, we will explore the role of dietitians in the Health Service Executive (HSE), the availability of free services, and the differences between public and private sector dietitians. Additionally, we will look across the water and touch upon the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom and its approach to IBS management.

My Background in the Public Health Sector

The 3 years I spent working as a dietitian in the public health sector were some of the most rewarding of my career. During this time, I was extremely proud of the work myself and my public health sector colleagues were able to provide to our patients. From my own experience I can honestly say that the HSE dietetic practitioners are some of the best we have in the country. However, during my time working in the public sector, I personally found that the high caseload and demand didn’t allow me to provide the exact type of service I felt some of my clients needed. That’s why I set up the Digestive Health Clinic, to ensure my clients could receive consistent and unlimited access to treatment that would combat their IBS symptoms without delays or being put on wait lists.

The Health Service Executive (HSE)

In Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is the governing body responsible for public health and healthcare provision. The HSE recognises the importance of dietitians in managing various health conditions, including digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The HSE dietitians are highly qualified professionals who specialise in nutrition and provide essential services to individuals seeking assistance for their dietary and digestive health concerns.

One of the significant advantages of the HSE dietitian services is that they can be accessed for free. This means that individuals with IBS can avail themselves of professional dietary guidance without the financial burden. The availability of free services allows a broader range of people to receive the support they need to manage their symptoms effectively and improve their overall well-being.

Accessibility Challenges in the Public Sector

While the HSE provides free access to some of the best dietitians in the country, it is important to acknowledge that finding a dietitian within the public sector can be challenging due to high demand and limited availability of specialists. The demand for these services often exceeds the capacity, resulting in long wait times for appointments with HSE dietitians. This situation can be frustrating for individuals seeking immediate assistance or those experiencing severe symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life.

To overcome these challenges, it is essential to be patient and persistent when accessing public sector services. Remember that early intervention and ongoing management are crucial for effective IBS management. It is advisable to contact your local HSE clinic or primary care centre to inquire about the availability of dietitian services and the process for making an appointment. By actively engaging in the process and remaining committed to your well-being, you can increase your chances of receiving the necessary support from HSE dietitians.

Length of Visit, Accountability, Consistency, and Relationship Building

In the public sector, the length of visit and follow-up appointments with HSE dietitians may be limited due to the high caseload and time constraints. While your experience when you are one to one with your public sector dietitian will often be second to none, the difficulty arises when more time demanding and regular appointments are required to get to the true root of your digestive issues. Due to the high demand, HSE dietitians are generally only able to offer 30 minute appointments at a time, and while they do provide excellent and consistent advice and treatment upon each visit, they do not have the capacity to provide support in between appointments.

During your visits with a HSE dietitian, it is crucial to establish a strong rapport and open communication. Building a relationship of trust and collaboration ensures that you receive the best guidance, support, and education possible to manage your IBS symptoms effectively. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, dietary habits, lifestyle factors, and any concerns you may have. Through a collaborative approach, your dietitian can develop a personalised dietary plan that suits your unique needs and supports your digestive health goals.

Here at the Digestive Health Clinic we strive to ensure all our clients are seen to as quickly as possible, with little to no wait times at all. Additionally, our appointments are not limited to 30 minutes and I pride myself on spending as much time with my clients as necessary to fully understand their symptoms, issues and the potential causation of their IBS symptoms. Additionally, the programmes we offer, such as our IBS Relief Programme, are designed to ensure our clients get constant support and accountability with regular check-ins, updates and appointments.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the NHS

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) plays a crucial role in providing healthcare services, including dietitian support, to individuals with IBS. NHS dietitians work alongside other healthcare professionals to develop individualised treatment plans for patients with digestive disorders. They provide evidence-based dietary advice, practical tips, and ongoing support to manage IBS symptoms effectively.

The NHS follows a comprehensive approach to IBS management within the public health sector. This approach emphasises multidisciplinary care and collaboration between dietitians, doctors, and other specialists. By working together, these professionals aim to provide holistic management and support to individuals with IBS, addressing both their physical and psychological well-being.


Navigating the public health sector for IBS management can be a challenging process, but it is worth exploring the available resources and seeking professional guidance from HSE dietitians. Remember, they are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to provide valuable insights, dietary recommendations, and support for managing your IBS symptoms effectively. If you prefer more flexibility and personalised care, private sector dietitians can offer tailored solutions, although they may involve additional costs. Ultimately, the goal is to find a dietitian who can help you on your journey towards improved digestive health and a better quality of life.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable information about IBS and the role of the public health sector in its management. If you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment with The Digestive Health Clinic, please visit our contact page and reach out to us. Our team is here to support you in your journey to optimal digestive health.

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