Brigstowe wins top national health award

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Brigstowe has won a major national award for our work to support people living with or affected by HIV and other long-term health conditions

Following a rigorous selection process, Brigstowe was chosen from more than 350 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2022 GSK IMPACT Awards. Now in their 25th year, the awards are designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium-sized charities working to improve people’s health and well-being in the UK. This year winners will receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by leading health and care charity The King’s Fund. 

More than 100,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV in the UK. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brigstowe has continued to offer a range of services to enhance the quality of life for people living with or affected by HIV in Bristol and the surrounding area. We provide information and advice, practical help with issues such as benefits and medication, as well as emotional support.

Through an innovative one-to-one peer support system, Brigstowe’s ‘Positive Voices’ project matches a trained volunteer who is also living with HIV with people who are newly diagnosed, or those in need of extra support. They meet once a week to share experiences, give advice, and set goals, as well as to provide information about diagnosis and managing lifestyle changes. The charity also provides training to local public sector workers, co-delivered with people living with HIV. For example, Brigstowe delivered training to 160 custody suite officers at Avon and Somerset Police to improve their understanding of HIV. Following the training, 75 per cent felt more confident to talk about HIV and 82 per cent felt they could challenge stigma around HIV.

The success of Brigstowe’s peer-support work has led to the charity receiving pilot funding from Sirona Care & Health to investigate whether the approach could also help improve the health and wellbeing of people living with type 2 diabetes, and more recently, people with long Covid. The charity’s influence locally was also instrumental in Bristol City Council’s decision to join the Fast-Track Cities Initiative, an international scheme to end new diagnoses of HIV within a decade.

The award judges were particularly impressed with Brigstowe’s strong focus on supporting some of the groups and communities most vulnerable to the potential impacts of an HIV diagnosis. Black African heritage people experience significant inequalities relating to HIV and their wider health. While they represent less than 2 per cent of the general population, Black African heritage individuals account for 30 per cent of people living with HIV.

The charity also has a specialist advice and support service for HIV positive asylum seekers, migrants and refugees, many of whom learn of their status through the health assessment they undergo as part of their asylum claim. Some have no access to public funds and require intensive legal, financial and emotional support because of destitution, poor mental health, inadequate housing, and immigration difficulties.

Katie Pinnock, Director of UK Charitable Partnerships at GSK, said: ‘An HIV diagnosis can have a very detrimental effect on a person’s mental wellbeing as well as impacting their physical health. Brigstowe’s work is user-led and rooted in the experiences of people living with HIV, delivering a range of support services in the West of England via its exceptional peer-support model. Its small but extremely passionate and skilled team has recently expanded their services to support people with other long-term conditions, including type 2 diabetes and long Covid. We were also particularly impressed by the strong partnerships the charity has built with health service commissioners, Bristol City Council and local businesses. Brigstowe is really punching above its weight and has been a catalyst for change for HIV services in Bristol.’

The 2022 GSK IMPACT Award recognises Brigstowe’s focus on its mission of improving the health and well being of people living with HIV and other long-term health conditions in the West of England. 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. Brigstowe will also be invited to join the GSK IMPACT Awards Network, a UK-wide network of more than 110 previous award winners who work together to develop leaders, find new ways of working and provide mutual support.  

Commenting on the award, Rami Ghali, Chief Executive of Brigstowe, said: ‘We’re thrilled to receive this award which recognises the hard work and achievements of staff, volunteers and trustees. We’re particularly proud to be recognised for our peer support services. Peer support is an approach to supporting people through shared experiences that has influenced every aspect of our work since its introduction into our services. It proves that people living with long-term health conditions can be proactive participants in supporting their own communities. Our thanks also go to our partners and funders who are so important to the work we do.’

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