Charity’s ‘alarm’ over heart disease research funding shortfall

British Heart Foundation says cardiovascular disease research faces shortfall of more than £250 million to 2035

May 17, 2024
A lifesaving automated external defibrillator installed on the seafront for emergency use in Shoeburyness, Essex
Source: iStock/Nigel Harris

Shortfalls in UK government funding are putting life-saving research breakthroughs at risk, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned.

New BHF analysis reveals that cardiovascular disease research funding faces a shortfall of more than a quarter of a billion pounds between 2025 and 2035.

Due to inflation, the charity estimates that the government will need to invest an extra £259 million over the next decade just to maintain research spending at 2022 levels.

The BHF said it was concerned that this falls far short of what is really needed, and wants to see government go further because of figures that show that cardiovascular disease receives a significantly lower proportion of research funding compared to its impact on UK society.

Despite receiving just 7 per cent of public and charity research funding in 2022, a recent report from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration found that cardiovascular disease, stroke and blood disorders accounted for over 13 per cent of all years lived with a disability or lost to premature death in the UK in 2019.  

Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the BHF, said research breakthroughs in cardiovascular disease treatment have saved countless lives but the government cannot take this for granted.

“These findings should ring alarm bells for government and prompt urgent action to prioritise cardiovascular disease research,” added Dr Griffiths.

“A funding boost would be transformational, helping to reignite progress towards future discoveries so that more people can live longer lives in good health.”

In addition, the BHF highlighted the “precarious nature” of cardiovascular research funding in the UK. Charities, which saw their fundraising drop significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, provide almost two-thirds of research funding.

Bryan Williams, chief scientific and medical officer at the BHF, warned that relying on charities to fund so much research in one field is “unsustainable”.

“We’re in the midst of a scientific revolution and cardiovascular scientists need more funding to capitalise on the explosion of new technology and innovation,” said Professor Williams.

“Without greater investment in cardiovascular disease research, we’re in danger of being left behind, and it is patients and their loved ones who will pay the ultimate price.”

Death rates from cardiovascular disease have fallen by three-quarters since 1961, but recent BHF analysis suggests that this downward trend may be going into reverse. In 2022 premature death rates from cardiovascular disease in England reached their highest level since 2011.

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