Heart research breakthroughs under threat from funding shortfall

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling on the Government to commit to increase funding to safeguard the future of UK cardiovascular research and drive advances in some of the country’s biggest killers, including heart disease and stroke.

The warning comes as the BHF’s new analysis reveals that cardiovascular disease research funding faces a shortfall of more than a quarter of a billion pounds between 2025 and 2035. The analysis estimates that, due to inflation, Government will need to invest an extra £259 million over the decade just to maintain research spending at 2022 levels.     

BHF has warned that this amount falls far short of the true need and wants to see Government go further, as evidence shows that cardiovascular disease continues to receive a significantly lower proportion of research funding in the UK compared to its impact on individuals and society.  

A recent report from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) found that cardiovascular disease, stroke and blood disorders accounted for just over 13 per cent of all years lived with a disability or lost to premature death in the UK in 2019. Despite this, together they only received around seven per cent of public and charity research funding in 2022 (£208 million).  

BHF says it is vital that cardiovascular research has the funding it needs to keep pace and harness the potential of cutting-edge innovations – including artificial intelligence, gene editing and regenerative medicine – to improve prevention, treatment and survival for millions of heart patients. 

Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, BHF’s Chief Executive, said: “Research breakthroughs have changed cardiovascular disease treatment and care beyond recognition since the 1960s, saving countless lives. But we can’t take this for granted. 

“Cardiovascular disease still causes one death every three minutes in the UK, leaving behind a trail of heartbreak. These findings should ring alarm bells for Government and prompt urgent action to prioritise cardiovascular disease research. A funding boost would be transformational, helping to reignite progress towards future discoveries so that more people can live longer lives in good health.”   

BHF also sounded the alarm about the precarious nature of cardiovascular research funding in the UK. The UKCRC report showed that charities remain the largest funders of the field, continuing to fund nearly two thirds (64 per cent - £106 million) of publicly funded cardiovascular research in 2022 in the UK. BHF funded 52 per cent (£85 million) of publicly funded cardiovascular research. The COVID-19 pandemic placed charities in a perilous position with many, including BHF, forced to cut the amount of research they were able to fund.

Professor Bryan Williams, BHF's Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, said: “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. We can’t provide that alone.

"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."

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