Charity improving health of ethnic minority communities on the Wirral wins top UK health award

News - 05 March 2024

Birkenhead-based charity the Wirral Multicultural Organisation has won a major national award for the support it provides to people from ethnic minority backgrounds across the Borough of Wirral. The award judges praised the services the charity has developed, including its help to overcome barriers in accessing health care.

Following a rigorous selection and assessment process, the Wirral Multicultural Organisation was chosen from more than 500 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2024 GSK IMPACT Awards, which are delivered in partnership with leading health and care charity The King’s Fund. Now in its 27th year, the awards are a mark of excellence in the charity sector, designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium-sized charities working to improve people’s health and wellbeing in the UK.  

As an award winner, the Wirral Multicultural Organisation will now receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by The King’s Fund.   

Established in 1993, the Wirral Multicultural Organisation offers a range of professional and culturally sensitive services to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. It provides language support, advocacy and social activities, and helps people to access primary and community health care services. The charity also runs a nursery for local children which offers some free childcare places to its service users.

Parts of the Wirral experience significant health challenges and life expectancy rates vary drastically across the area. In the most deprived areas, life expectancy is 13.2 years lower for men, and 11 years lower for women compared to the least deprived areas.

The award judges were impressed with the charity’s ability to constantly adapt to develop health-related services that meet the needs of the local community. Its ‘Health Link Service’ employs multilingual staff to help people access GP services, including organising and accompanying people to appointments, supporting with home visits, and translating medical letters. This service delivered nearly 10,000 support sessions in 2022/23. The charity provides health checks for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma, and advises on vaccinations and cancer screening services.

The charity also runs a Health and Wellbeing Service, which includes supporting asylum seekers based in two hotels in the area to access local health care and receive health checks.

The charity’s interpreting and translating services in primary care provides face-to-face and telephone support for those who struggle with language barriers when they try to access care. Staff accompanying service users to hospital appointments also noticed it was hard to access interpreting and translation in hospitals. The judges praised the Wirral Multicultural Organisation for campaigning to secure a contract to provide language support for MRI and CT scans and endoscopy appointments. Across all its services the charity provided 4,960 face-to-face and 651 telephone appointments in 49 languages from March 2022 to March 2023.

The award judges commended the Wirral Multicultural Organisation’s approach to working in partnership with other local organisations to reduce health inequalities. The Hospital Advocacy Discharge Service, which started in March 2023, supports people to have a safe discharge from hospital and reduce readmissions. It is run in partnership with Age UK and Wirral University Teaching Hospital Trust’s Integrated Discharge Team. Staff from the charity take part in hospital ward rounds to identify patients ready for discharge and work with community health and care services to provide support when people leave hospital. The approach helps patients to stay well and also takes strain off the NHS by avoiding readmissions.

The charity also runs a substance misuse service in partnership with local public health teams, Wirral-Way to Recovery, Merseyside Police and Wirral Metropolitan College (over 600 people from 72 countries are enrolled for language classes at the college). Since the service started in January 2023, 258 people have spoken to a substance misuse link worker and been provided with information and 70 have asked for support.

Over 250 people access the Wirral Multicultural Organisation’s services every week, including the Community Development Service, which provides advice on benefits, housing, social care, education, homelessness and food banks.

Lisa Weaks, Senior Associate at The King’s Fund, said: ”The Wirral Multicultural Organisation offers a wide range of services and provides creative responses to the high levels of need in its community. It works tirelessly to combat health disadvantage and poor access to health services. The charity has developed a range of new services, including language interpretation, health checks and GP registrations. It also advocates on behalf of its service users and works in partnership with other organisations, for example to support people leaving hospital and prevent unnecessary hospital readmissions. Wirral Multicultural Organisation has placed itself as the ‘go to’ charity for people from an ethnic minority background within Wirral.”

Commenting on the award, Aline Macready, CEO of Wirral Multicultural Organisation, said “Wirral Multicultural Organisation is delighted and grateful for this award. Our ability to innovate and improve our services comes not only from within our organisation but also from the willingness and ready support of our partners and funders whose collaboration we greatly value. Our staff, trustees and volunteers also deserve recognition for their dedication and commitment to providing seamless support to our service users.

“This award will allow us to take forward our initiatives and to develop the organisation in ways which support further innovation and creative approaches to emerging issues in a rapidly changing world.

“But, for us, the award’s greatest value lies in the recognition of the support we provide to our community.” Developing leaders in the charity sector is a key aim of the GSK IMPACT Awards programme and all winners are invited to build on their success and take part in a tailored leadership development programme run by The King’s Fund.