community postit.pngThe Early Diagnosis Community Engagement project aims to support the earlier diagnosis of cancer which will save lives and improve quality of life for people affected by cancer.

It has a focus on tackling inequalities in cancer outcomes across Cheshire and Merseyside, and support and empower the population of these targeted areas.

The project seeks to support local communities to reduce their risk of dying from cancer, by improving community understanding and awareness of signs and symptoms of cancer and encouraging appropriate health seeking behaviour.

By working with voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organiSocial Action Leads.pngsations from three places, Halton, Knowsley and Warrington, it focuses on improving knowledge of the signs and symptoms of cancer within local communities, encouraging more people to go for NHS screening when they are invited, and to reduce inequalities in access to high-quality cancer treatment and care through a small grants programme.

Around 30 organisations have been given funding for projects to spread cancer information within their communities and now, in an extension to the project, eight Social Action Leads have been recruited to help support community organisations in all areas across Cheshire and Merseyside, so many more people can be reached with the awareness messages.

The Social Action Leads and their areads are: Lauren Newall – Knowsley; Alicia Watson – Sefton; Lucy Coates – Cheshire East; Rhian Davies – Wirral; John Buchanan – Cheshire West; Helen Parker – Warrington; Steph Gregory – Liverpool.

They are pictured here with the Cancer Alliance's Early Diagnosis Community Engagement project manager, Moray Hayman.

gardening.jpgAlmost ​​​​​​​one quarter (23%) of Cheshire and Merseyside neighbourhoods are within the 10% most deprived in England, with wide variation between Cheshire CCG (5%) and Liverpool CCG (49%). Across the region health deprivation is also higher (33%) than national averages.

In addition:

  • Cheshire and Merseyside has 16,000 new cancer cases and 7,000 deaths due to cancer each year
  • Cancer incidence is 5% higher than England, and cancer mortality is 8% higher
  • Over 2.6 million people are registered with GP practices in the Cheshire and Merseyside area
  • In 2018, almost 100,000 of those people were living with a diagnosis of cancer.

Early stage diagnosis is similar to England (53%) with little recent improvement. On average, each GP practice needs to diagnosis 7 additional patients at an early stage each year to reach 75% ambition. One year survival has improved from below to above England average, however, CCG range has widened.

discussing.jpgStakeho​​​​​​​lder members of the three target areas of Knowsley, Halton & Warrington have declared through engagement & scoping that the vision for the service should be to provide an offer of support for communities to access greater awareness of early signs and symptoms of cancer. It is vital to ensure that this information is of high quality, and to deliver support in line with national and local guidance and protocols across the three targeted areas.

As a result, CMCA has partnered with Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations; Warrington Voluntary Action, One Knowsley and Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action, to fund a small grants programme where voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise organisations are invited to apply to fund projects that will support some, or all, of the following objectives:

  • Reduction in the number of people entering hospital and receiving diagnoses via accident & emergency
  • Increase in people accessing support including information, advice and signposting
  • Increase in access to early intervention services with people being diagnosed earlier
  • More people supported to achieve emotional wellbeing
  • Reduce stigma and discrimination relating to cancer diagnosis
  • Support co-working and collaboration between primary care services and health and social care to meet the totality of individual and family needs
  • Increase levels and models of mutual/peer support
  • Improve outcomes for families and carers through signposting/referral
  • Reduce late stage 3 and 4 cancer diagnoses

The Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance is working in partnership with Community voluntary organisations to support groups to engage with their users and raise awareness of cancer, its early signs and symptoms and the importance of attending cancer screening when called. It's about considering how your organisation can create and deliver awareness to the people you connect with in your community. It's not about creating whole new cancer support services.

Each VCSE organisation received a total of £100,000 as part of this project; £90,000 to be provided as small grants and £10,000 to administer the project and to enable the relevant community development, the partnership between CMCA and the VCSE organisations was formally announced on 6th June 2022.

CMCA has adopted a genuine co-development approach with these organisations as demonstrated by the Chief Officers from each one:

Warrington Voluntary Action logoWarrington Voluntary Action

Alison Cullen, Chief Officer

“This is a really worthwhile project to improve the understanding of cancer in our community. We will be ensuring that the information provided by our community groups is of a high quality and working with Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance will help us with this. The groups we work with can also signpost people to appropriate cancer services and where to find further information if required.”

One Knowsley Logo

Racheal Jones, Chief Executive Officer

“We are really pleased to be partnering with Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance to help our fantastic community groups, who do so much in our communities, to pass on important information about cancer to their members and the wider public. This is a ground-breaking project which is designed, ultimately, to save lives.”

Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action logo

Sally Yeoman, Chief Executive

“We are looking forward to working with Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance to deliver positive change in our areas through our wonderful community groups, which will ultimately mean reducing the number of people dying unnecessarily from cancer.”


Jane Hoarty.pngJayne Hoarty – Knowsley

Jayne has a background in social prescribing and has a passion for improving the lives of others. She has over four years of social prescribing experience. Her previous roles include working in the deaf community, in Independent Mental Health Advocacy and in community advocacy. She is committed to enabling our community groups and enhancing the incredible work that is happening in Knowsley.

She said: "I feel excited that through this role I am able to support and enhance the current offer from the VCFE organisations that are doing such incredible work in Knowsley. The support and guidance from the Cancer Alliance is so important to future health of our communities. I am keen to see the impact this project based around early signs, symptoms and screening can make to the overall health and well being of our borough."


Alicia Watson.jpgAlicia Watson – Sefton

Alicia has worked at Sefton CVS for six years, being involved with projects in collaboration with Macmillan cancer charity and the NHS to offer information and support to individuals to encourage them to achieve positive change in their wellbeing. She said: “I am committed to promoting equal opportunities and engaging with local community groups to empower them to make achievable lifestyle choices.”

To contact Alicia, email:

Lucy Coates.jpgLucy Coates – Cheshire East

Lucy has had several roles in clinical and educational settings and is now a Sector Development Officer at CVS Cheshire East. She is pleased to be also taking on the role of a Social Action Lead to improve community understanding and awareness of signs and symptoms of cancer. She said: “I am enjoying being a part of this focused team. Already there is a strong sense of purpose and drive to collaborate, to encourage conversations amongst voluntary group members and for experiences to be shared to improve cancer outcomes through early screenings and recognising what may be early symptoms of cancer and acting on them.”

To contact Lucy, email:

Rhian Davies.jpgRhian Davies – Wirral

Rhian has a background working in healthcare, the emergency services and as a teaching assistant. She is currently working in the Prehabilitation Team for One Wirral CIC, which gives physical and wellbeing support for patients who have a cancer diagnosis. She said: “Working with this cohort of individuals has given me the drive and passion to help make changes to how we see cancer, and to help educate local communities on cancer and cancer risks, supporting those in need to combat barriers they may face in accessing information and support. This is an exciting opportunity for our Wirral residents to work together and tackle some myths and educate each other as a community.”

To contact Rhian, email:

John Buchanan.jpgJohn Buchanan – Cheshire West

John has worked in the charity sector for 20 years, at first with a homeless organisation and now as Training Officer at Cheshire West Voluntary Action. He said: “I would describe myself as a social activist and advocate for the marginalised and underrepresented in our community. Working on this social action project is the perfect opportunity for myself to address fundamental health inequalities in the region I operate in.”

To contact John, email:

Helen Parker.jpgHelen Parker – Warrington

Helen has worked for Warrington Voluntary Action since January 2018 supporting a wide variety of community and voluntary groups across the town with issues such as funding, governance, policies and quality assurance. She has also led a befriending project and a widening participation project which involved working closely with community, voluntary and faith sector groups. She said: “I’m so excited to be working Social Action Lead for Warrington. There are already so many amazing things happening across the sector, and this is a real opportunity to build on this. Working together I believe we can help to spread the message about the importance of the early detection of cancer and support people to lead healthier lifestyles to help to prevent the disease.”

To contact Helen, email:

Steph Gregory.jpgSteph Gregory – Liverpool

Steph is a Development Officer at Liverpool CVS whose primary role is to oversee LCVS’s grant giving programmes and to host Liverpool’s Health and Wellbeing Network. Steph has a background in mental health support services, volunteer management and training and health and wellbeing service provision. She said: “I am committed to tackling health inequalities and improving access to health services in the city, and I welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with Social Action Leads from across Cheshire and Merseyside.”

To contact Steph, email:

Groups applying for grants must be willing to commit to working as part of the Community of Practice. This will involve sharing experiences, learning and good practice with their VCSE’s and fed back to CMCA.

The Voluntary and Community Organisations eligible for this fund are:

  • Constituted organisations and non-registered charities
  • Registered charities, including charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs)
  • Community Interest Companies (CICs) and community benefit organisations (where there is a minimum of three unrelated directors)
  • Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs)
  • Churches and other religious organisations (if the funded activity is not deemed to be proselytising)

Not eligible under this programme are:

  • Grants that are solely for the provision of bursaries to individuals or families cannot be awarded
  • Individuals cannot apply
  • Statutory bodies such as city and county councils or health institutions cannot apply
  • Cancer support groups and existing cancer services

Since the announcement of the partnership in June and the subsequent launch of the grants programme in each of the three VCSE geographical sectors, we have seen some unique, innovative and inspiring applications. The first grants have been awarded and work has already begun to start creating change, to embed messaging around raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms of cancer and to communicate as widely as possible that early diagnosis saves lives.

For example, Brook Acre Community Primary School in Warrington have been awarded just over £4,000 to create a ‘Well Being Warriors’ project. Their project is an intergenerational piece of work between children and their families about the wellbeing factors that affect cancer.

The year 5/6 children have pushed back on the national messaging they were asked to take back home to parents and carers. They instead want to create an environment where it is safe to bring their families in to the school to have important discussions about giving up smoking and why you should eat a healthy diet, and live a healthier lifestyle overall, with the important embedded messaging of early detection of cancer.