Charity service user referral system

The Food Chain

Web Application




London, UK


The Food Chain is a charity created in the 1980s at the height of the HIV epidemic. They have a long history of providing food and nutrition services to people with HIV.

To use The Food Chain, you must be referred by an agency or NHS service. They had a legacy system that connected with a now out-of-date API for SalesForce. Managing the system of referrers was time-consuming and required Food Chain staff to manually approve and move referrers through the system.

They needed to replicate their old system without any loss of services with a robust Salesforce integration.


We began by reviewing The Food Chain’s existing service user referral system, built in Python, to understand the existing workflow. Since this system hadn’t been updated in years, we worked with Food Chain staff to identify which parts of the existing workflow could be improved.

We built a new version of The Food Chain’s website using WordPress. Using the WordPress membership system and security plugins, we built custom member’s areas for volunteer staff and referrers, offering a secure place to provide service information and manage referrals and volunteer booking.

We designed and built a form-based interface to let referrers submit referrals to the Food Chain, and then track the outcome of those referrals, such as showing which services (e.g. food deliveries) had been approved for the service user.

This system was integrated with The Food Chain’s Salesforce platform, which The Food Chain uses to manage its service. Referrers created on the system were automatically given a WordPress login so that they could access the secure referrals section of the website. The system used the Salesforce API to make sure that all new referrals were pushed to the Salesforce platform, and that any updates that Food Chain staff made to the referral were communicated to the referrer.

The information referrers submit is very sensitive – it includes personal data about the service users being referred, along with medical information. We took this into account when building and deploying the system – ensuring that all network communication of personal data was encrypted, and we followed best security practices when storing this data.


The update to the Salesforce integration allowed The Food Chain referrers to continue to refer service users to vital services without interruption.

The changes we made to the new version of the referral system have been positively met, as referrers report having an easier time navigating the system and creating referrals for Food Chain’s services.

A key change we made in the new version of the referrals system is to allow referrers to upload medical documents which were automatically applied to the referral’s Salesforce page. Previously these documents had to be provided via email or fax. This improvement has streamlined the referral process and ensured that key documents are uploaded quickly and stored securely.

We have continued to host and support the referral management system and have recently worked with The Food Chain to build an automatic volunteer shift booking system, also integrated with Salesforce.

Thank you as always for laying it out so clearly and explaining everything so well, it's really helpful.

Anna Brewster, Volunteer and Services Manager