British Heart Foundation faces 'biggest crisis in 60-year history'

The charity says the fall in income caused by the pandemic means it will probably halve its annual £100m research budget this year

The British Heart Foundation is facing the “biggest crisis in its 60-year history” because of the coronavirus pandemic, the charity has said.

A statement from the BHF said the fall in income it was expecting because of cancelled fundraising events and the closure of its shops meant it anticipated having to halve its annual £100m research budget this year.

And it said it could take several years for funding to return to pre-pandemic levels. 

It is not yet clear whether the fall in income will have any effect on jobs at the BHF, which furloughed about 80 per cent of its 4,000-strong workforce under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Most of the furloughed employees worked in the charity’s shops. 

The BHF, which had an income of £338m in the year to the end of March last year, said it was joining with the Association of Medical Research Charities and 151 of its members to call on the government to match-fund charity-funded research for the next three years. 

It says such a sharp fall could have a “catastrophic impact on UK cardiovascular research, the research careers of thousands of young scientists and advances in diagnostics, treatments and cures for people with heart and circulatory diseases”.

The BHF said it funded more than half of non-commercial research into heart and circulatory diseases in the UK. 

Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the charity, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating for so many people, especially those with heart and circulatory diseases.

“Thanks to 60 years of public support, the BHF has grown to become the UK’s leading funder of non-commercial cardiovascular research, which has saved and improved millions of lives. We now face an unprecedented research funding crisis that threatens to arrest real progress.

“The shockwaves from such a drop in funding for heart and circulatory disease research will be profound, stalling progress in making the discoveries we urgently need. 

“We are urging government to establish a vital Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to match research charity funding and help protect world-class research across the UK’s four nations.”

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