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SSAFA: Digitising family deployment

SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, were looking to make it easier for parents and their children as they are posted abroad and provide an enhanced digital service that supports SSAFA in the delivery of health visiting services to these families 


03 July 2021 | Sitekit



SSAFA support and provide Health Visiting services for UK families posted abroad. This support begins once someone receives details of their posting. Parents can often find out at the last minute that they are being deployed and the health visiting service in the destination country, run by SSAFA, is not always informed of their full family situation in advance of their arrival. Often no medical notes are passed to the SSAFA health visiting team in advance of arrival.  

At the point of posting SSAFA needed to be able to collect health information digitally from parents about to deploy to UK bases abroad in a safe and secure way. This information may include information about a pregnancy, immunisation data about their child or details of specialised support they have been receiving in the UK.  

During the period leading up to the posting, and once parents are posted, SSAFA wanted to be able to communicate with parents, sending them relevant information about their new location and help they may need on arrival. Once in country, SSAFA health visitors need to be able to send information to parents.  

This project enables SSAFA to deliver more fully against the Military Covenant ensuring that families posted abroad get the same access to services, underpinned by the same access to health data, as the civilian community back in the UK.  



SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, are the providers of health visiting services for families and their children posted overseas with the armed forces every year. SSAFA, along with NHS England, London Region have led the way in the UK for parent-held digital health records for children. SSAFA and Sitekit have a history of working together to deliver innovation for parents and were shortlisted for an HSJ award for “Healthtech Partnership of the Year” in 2019. 


“We are extremely proud to be at the forefront of digitising child health records, and also finding innovative solutions to support families during what can be a stressful transition to an overseas posting.”

Jane Bojdys, Named Safeguarding Professional Lead Public Health Nurse


Sitekit ultimately added features to eRedbook and eRedbook Pro that enable Health Professionals working with military families to manage the unique complications provided by deployment.   

Sitekit collaborated with SSAFA to develop a design for custom features to be added to eRedbook to enable the secure and controlled flow of data from parents using eRedbook to their health visitors. This collaboration included analysis of the existing manual process, understanding how and where digital tools could improve the process, then designing the required features and alterations needed. SSAFA provided Sitekit with access to relevant staff members and provided a clear outline of their current process. Close collaborative working made it easy to design the successful new process. 

At the centre of the development was the capability for a parent to sign up for eRedbook, enter information saying where they are about to move to and then receive information from the health visiting team in the destination location. This can all be done without the health visitor in the destination location being directly in contact with the parent.  

Once the parent has signed up they receive information about the destination location. This can include questionnaires also developed as part of this project.  

The new functionality allows professional users with the appropriate user permissions to send questionnaires to the child’s eRedbook record. The questionnaires are fully configurable by the health visiting team in the destination country. The questionnaires are child-based not family-based, and can be targeted by age of child, attribute and location. Parents can include health information, such as immunisations, weights, etc. in their response to the questionnaire directly from the child’s eRedbook record without having to retype it.  

Once the parents have completed the questionnaire it can be viewed in eRedbook Pro where the SSAFA staff in the destination country can review and plan in advance of the family’s arrival in the new location.  

In the background, FHIR is used to store data created in eRedbook. This ultimately makes the data portable, meeting GDPR requirements, and meaning that the parent could, in the future, use the data in other FHIR compatible applications. Sitekit and SSAFA are committed to the NHSX interoperability agenda meaning that both providers and parents remain flexible about which software suppliers they use.  


This ability for the SSAFA staff to plan for the arrival of families can be the difference between a pregnant mother having access to antenatal appointments as soon as she arrives in country, or not. 

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