Solent NHS Trust is supporting families with a new digital portal which offers a wealth of information to parents-to-be, parents and families.

Family Assist Solent enables anyone expecting a child or with a child under the age of two to access health content that has been written or approved by local health professionals. It provides families with a safe place to access reliable information and support during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.

Expectant or new parents are able to register for the portal via their health visitor service. Once registered users are sent key pieces of information via email at the relevant stages of pregnancy and child development. Information covers from pregnancy up to the age of three years old.

The idea for the portal came from Kelly Pierce, head of integrated early help and prevention and consultant midwife in public health for Solent NHS.

She said: “We know that being a first-time parent or expanding your family can feel daunting and worrying and that this was heightened for many in West Sussex and beyond during the pandemic. We knew it was important to create a Solent version of Family Assist to give instant information and guidance from professionals in clear and reassuring ways.

“We also recognise that relatives and friends play critical roles in a parent’s support network and helping them remain connected to those nearest to them. Family Assist Solent enables users to invite these people into the portal, enabling them to join in the overall parenting journey.”

The rollout of the portal started in January 2022 and since then there has been 25,000 visitor interactions. One of the areas it is able to support is mental health – particularly timely with both Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Awareness Week taking place this month.

Family Assist Solent is able to provide mental health support to parents and enable them to reach out whenever they need help.

Charlotte Gatehouse, specialist health visitor for perinatal and infant mental health at Solent NHS Trust, said: “Family Assist Solent offers an opportunity to improve care by providing discrete and accessible information and connection with services at the earliest opportunity; raising awareness of mental health difficulties and the support available with the aim to break down stigma and empower parents to reach out and be involved in decisions about their care.”

Last year, Solent NHS Trust became the first trust in the country to go live with a personal health record system to support an integrated approach to the remote delivery of sexual health services.