Dysphagia Champions – helping those with swallowing difficulties

What is dysphagia?

The NHS website describes  dysphagia as ‘…where you have problems swallowing,  usually caused by certain medicines or another condition, such as acid reflux or a stroke‘.  It can be from having some trouble swallowing food or fluids, to not being able to eat or drink at all. 


Signs of dysphagia can include the following:-


  • coughing or choking when eating or drinking
  • bringing food back up, sometimes through the nose
  • a feeling that food is stuck in your throat or chest
  • a gurgly, wet-sounding voice when eating or drinking

Not being able to eat or drink could lead to other symptoms such as  weight loss, dehydration and repeated chest infections, and so it is important people caring for loved ones who are experiencing these symptoms to gain further advice from their GP.

Our Dysphagia Champions

Our Dysphagia Champions are staff who have received additional training in the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) 2019                (see below) and who will use this to drive improvement of the management of  dysphagia in our long-term conditions service. These champions will review the content of our care plans and carry out observational visits to support our team of staff in the community to deliver safe care, support nutrition, and prevent/manage choking episodes.

At present, we have three senior people trained; the Deputy Manager, the Care Coordinator, and one of our Senior Healthcare Support Workers. By upskilling  selected staff, we will also bolster our legal requirements in ‘Meeting nutritional/hydration needs’ under Regulation 14 of the Health & Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. 

Understanding The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) 2019

Our Dysphagia Champions have been trained to understand the IDDSI standards that the Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) will use during their assessment of the person’s swallowing. The diagram below illustrates how the IDDSI framework aims to simplify the language in describing the thickness of both food and drink by giving them a numerical code:-

Diagram of the IDDSI Framework, identifying the common terminology used for those with Dysphagia

Image Credit: IDDSI

Creative License: CreativeCommons Sharealike 4.0

Transferring learning into practice

Our Dysphagia Champions will ensure the SLT assessment is transferred to the care plan and risk assessment with clear details of any recommendations such as:-

  • The type of thickener used
  • How much to use
  • When to use it
  • With what foods/fluids to mix it with
  • How to mix it correctly, gain the right consistency and avoid lumps
  • Where to record its use
Depending upon the brand of any thickener used, illustration charts supplied by the SLT will also be added to the care plan for clarity.
If you or your loved one requires care which may include supervision with  eating and drinking where dysphagia is present, please contact us to discuss how Aster Care can help support your journey.

find out about more about some of the services Aster Care provide: