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Cardiovascular Health 2020

Why the Government must prevent a research funding crisis

Credit: British Heart Foundation

Dr Charmaine Griffiths

Chief Executive, British Heart Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has left charity-funded medical research facing a catastrophic funding crisis. We anticipate that, without Government support, our BHF annual research budget will fall by half to £50m this year alone, jeopardising progress in how we tackle heart and circulatory diseases.

The beginning of 2020 now feels like a distant and much more certain world. It was the start of a new decade and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) was embarking on an ambitious new ten-year strategy – with a core focus on investing in life-saving research. While our mission hasn’t changed, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has, as with the wider world, upended all our plans and created historic health and financial challenges for us to overcome.

We’ve taken steps to meet this once-in-a-generation challenge by enabling our researchers to join the fight against COVID-19 and establishing a Coronavirus Hub to help heart and circulatory patients, who are at increased risk of complications from COVID-19. Calls to our Heart Helpline soared at the height of the pandemic and our online support page have been visited over two million times since March 2020.

Devastating consequences 

The BHF has been at the forefront of research into heart and circulatory disease for nearly 60 years, funding around £100 million in life-saving research every year as the largest non-commercial funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. 

Sadly, the closure of our BHF shops, combined with the cancellation of fundraising events, has cut our research budget by half to £50 million. Such a dramatic funding drop will have a catastrophic impact on UK research into heart and circulatory diseases, the careers of thousands of young scientists we urgently need, and ultimately advances in diagnostics, treatments and cures for people living with these diseases in the years to come.

The solution requires collaboration 

To maintain the progress that’s been achieved through decades of investment, the BHF has joined with the Association of Medical Research Charities and its 151 members to call on the UK Government to establish the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to support the restoration of charity funded research over the next three years to protect hard-earned progress as we aim to beat heartbreak forever. 

Without help, we know that research progress will stall, and we will lose precious research and development research talent we urgently need to make life-saving discoveries.

An international research and development hub 

The Prime Minister prides the UK on being an international hub for research and development. Now it is time for the Government to show true commitment to this claim and support the nation’s research charities so we can continue our trailblazing research. 

Patients are at the heart of all medical research. Unfortunately, unless the Government provides financial support, they are the ones who will pay the price if we’re not able to protect UK research.

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