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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“It’s a form of Sewa”, NHS paediatric dietician lays out her 30-year journey in the NHS.

On 5 July 2023, the NHS completes 75 years of serving people and saving lives. For 75 years the NHS has been at the forefront in providing care to people with medical needs. In particular the NHS has been a flag-bearer of saving lives during the deadly pandemic which swept the globe.

As the NHS marks its Diamond Jubilee, here at Asian Standard we pay respect to all medical warriors who have been a part of the selfless service and have always strived to keep service before self.

Our profile of some of those selfless warriors begins with Dalvinder Hellawell, paediatric dietician, at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, who has completed 30 year service with the NHS.

She was recently awarded a long services award from BTHFT CEO Prof Mel Pickup.

“To be honest, I can’t believe it’s been 30 years”, Dalvinder laughs as she tells Asian Standard how she feels on completing 30 years.

“Time has gone quickly, even though it’s been 30 years. So, it’s amazing, and I am a bit stunned sometimes, how did this happen?

“But I’ve been very lucky in the job I am doing, to be honest. Even though we have had a lot of difficulties, for quite a few years, but especially recently with the pandemic. But yeah, I can’t believe it that it’s been 30 years, that’s the key.”

Rewinding back 30 years, back to when Dalvinder started, she wanted to be a nurse.

She says, “I hugely admired Mother Teresa, and I had decided that I would be a nurse and help people out. I started nursing, but something changed, and my parents weren’t too keen that I do nursing.

“I went to the Polytechnique library, and I came across this course called dietetics. It was all about nutrition, so I thought that this might be helpful and went for it. As a part of the degree, we do a placement year, and that’s when I realised, that this was I wanted to be in. I became passionate about it.

“Diet is an important part of any treatment, that was what kept me going. So, I started seeing people with diabetes. My first job was in Hull and then I moved to Leeds and then finally to Bradford, in 1994 and there I discovered paediatrics. This was a whole new world. In 1996, I got appointed as paediatric dietician in Bradford. What I hear about paediatrics, that it’s got different layers. You have all requirements of children, you have all different conditions, all different disabilities. It’s a layer after layer, like an onion. There are so many things to learn and that’s why it has kept me interested”.

Speaking of changes, Dalvinder says, “The treatments have completely revolutionised. It is unheard of children dying of a certain condition. The treatments start much earlier now. A lot of children were poor and didn’t have access, that has changed quite a lot.”

Speaking of challenges that remain now, she adds, “There are still so many children that have been neglected. There are so many conditions that need to be addressed. We can’t support as many families, as we want to. Diet changes too, require a lot of efforts and sometimes it might affect the families financially.”

Being a dietician and coming from a South Asian background, knowing the different dietary requirements of the community, she lays out challenges in nutrition among South Asian communities.

“The major challenge is that when you come to UK, you get influenced by Western diet. So, what happens is that the balance of some of the Asian foods, which are good, like lentils, rice and vegetables, starts to change because of this influence. So, one must make sure that there must be a balance, between what comes from different cuisines.

“But also, there’s a way of cooking, especially if it’s from northern India, we use a lot of oil in the curry making, so one needs to adapt those recipes. So, the types of foods are good, it’s all up to how we cook them. So, using less oil, less fat, more baked and that’s where the influence of Western cooking comes in. So, we can use ovens to bake. So, bake the samosas instead of using oil. So, the types of foods are good, we get everything from our lentils, pulses, vegetables. It’s just coming to how we cook them. It’s all about balance. The younger generations choose a lot of convenient food rather than traditional foods, so it all comes down to how we marry those two. So, in a week, have some dal and other traditional foods. We can have pizzas and burgers, but we don’t want to depend on them. It’s all about that perfect balance.”

Speaking to Asian Standard Dalvinder also recalls the time of the pandemic, and what challenges the NHS and medical personnels had to face: “Our way of working changed, we couldn’t see our families directly. We had to call our families. The relationship completely changed. One of the challenges was to establish a rapport with them, especially the new families. Because in terms of dietary management you need to make sure to have a good relationship with the families, to make sure they do the changes you are recommending.

“The most basic challenge was tiredness, the energy would keep draining, also a lot of sadness, thankfully we didn’t lose a lot of children. But it was sad to see children losing some of their family members. That was also very affecting because we wanted to support those families”.

Reflecting on the 30 years she served with the NHS, Dalvinder has a message for the younger generation: “The biggest thing is that you can make a difference. Sometimes it’s quite hard to make a change, but it does happen, one step at a time. You must be determined. Determination is a key factor.

“It’s a vast field, it involves continuous learning. I am still learning every day.

“It’s all about gratitude and giving as much as possible. Sometimes I think, is it time to change, but then I think about the families, and I say to myself, I cannot give up on them”.

“For me, money is not that a motivation, it’s a service. I am a Punjabi; I am a Sikh. So, we do Sewa, and that’s how I feel about it. NHS is a form of a Sewa. NHS is a last word of service, that’s what I feel about it.” Dalvinder concludes.

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