British Heart Foundation

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British Heart Foundation
British Heart Foundation.png
Legal statusRegistered charity
PurposeHeart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors
Region served
United Kingdom
Doug Gurr
Chief Executive
Dr Charmaine Griffiths [1]

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is a cardiovascular research charity in the United Kingdom. It funds medical research related to heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors, and runs influencing work aimed at shaping public policy and raising awareness.

In 2021, a study conducted by YouGov ranked the British Heart Foundation as the top charity or organisation in the UK by % of adults who hold a positive opinion of the organisation.[2]


The British Heart Foundation was founded in 1961 by a group of medical professionals who were concerned about the increasing death rate from cardiovascular disease. They wanted to fund extra research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart and circulatory diseases.[3]

It is a major funder and authority in cardiovascular research, education, and care, and relies predominantly on voluntary donations to meet its aims. In order to increase income and maximise the impact of its work, it also works with other organizations to combat premature death and disability from cardiovascular disease.


British Heart Foundation shop, Loue, Cornwall
British Heart Foundation store, Hammersmith, London
British Heart Foundation Cymru demonstrating CPR skills

The British Heart Foundation’s main focus is to fund cardiovascular research, aiming to spend around £100 million a year funding scientists around the UK. They are currently funding over 1000 research projects.[4]

Since 2008 the British Heart Foundation has been investing in Centres of Research Excellence. The six current centres bring together scientists from a number of disciplines to work on research projects to beat heart and circulatory disease.[5] The current Centres of Research are:

In 2013 the BHF committed to funding three multi-institution Centres of Regenerative Medicine, investing £7.5 million over four years to fund scientists looking for new treatments for heart failure.[6]

Other activities include:

  • Information – BHF will provide information to help people reduce their own heart health risk.
  • Campaigning – BHF will get government to establish policies that minimise the risk of developing heart and circulatory disease
  • Support – offering advice to those with heart conditions via their website, information booklets or heart helpline.
  • Life saving skills – the BHF currently offers free CPR kits to schools[7] and is working with the Department of Health to distribute defibrillators throughout England.[8]

In 2020, The British Heart Foundation had an income of just over £336m. In the same year, the BHF spent over £93m on funding cardiovascular research.[9]


The BHF is funded through trading activities (accounting for £196 million of income[10]) and donations and legacies (accounting for £132 million of income).[11]

Other annual campaigns include National Heart Month (held throughout February), Wear Red Day and The Big Donation as well as many other campaigns to recruit volunteers, raise awareness of BHF, sell stock and increase donations.

In December 2010 Victoria Wood performed a show called "The Angina Monologues" for The British Heart Foundation with the strapline "Beating Heart Disease one laugh at a time".[12]

Retail Division[edit]

The British Heart Foundation Shops Division was founded in 1986, and was renamed Retail Division in 2010. The BHF run a large chain of charity shops throughout England, Wales and Scotland, as of December 2016 they run 737 shops which include over 160 furniture and electrical shops (or F+E shops), and they are looking to acquire more sites in the coming years. They also have an online shop and an eBay Store. The BHF Retail division makes roughly £30 million every year.[13]


The British Heart Foundation sponsored two television series produced by Twofour, Kitchen Detective and Kid's Fit Squad. Both series encouraged healthy eating and exercise with practical advice for families, and aired on the Discovery Health channel. The BHF, along with Cancer Research UK, is a major backer of the anti-tobacco campaign group Action on Smoking and Health.[14]

Facts and figures[edit]

  • Over 3,800 Heartstart UK schemes to educate people what to do in various emergency situations (not just cardiac emergencies). More than 3.5 million people have been trained by Heartstart UK in schools (for example via the Saving Londoners' Lives project) and the community.[15]
  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2020, the BHF had a total income of £336,500,000.[16]
  • Every year 1 in every 145 babies are born in the UK with a congenital heart defect.
  • The 'heartbeat' logo was designed in 1971 by Sheila Harrison, one of BHF's regional organisers at the time. It remains in use today and is now one of the most recognisable logos in the UK.[17]


Animal research[edit]

In 2011, the charity was one of four large charitable organisations subject to a national boycott campaign regarding their funding of animal research. "Animal Aid plans to take out a series of newspaper adverts urging the public to stop giving money to Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Alzheimer's Society and Parkinson's UK unless they end their support for animal testing."[18][19] In November 2011 a protest took place calling for the BHF and the University of Leeds to stop carrying out co-funded "lethal experiments" on dogs. The pressure group Animal Aid stated that 100 dogs had died since 1988 during the experiments.[20][21]

The BHF has responded to these criticisms by saying the charity only funds animal research after grant applications have gone through an independent peer review process and follows the three Rs principles when considering such grants.[22]

Wealth screening[edit]

On 6 December 2016, the BHF was fined £18,000 by the UK Information Commissioner's Office which ruled that the charity had breached data protection legislation by employing external bodies to analyse the financial status of supporters in order to appeal to them for further donations, a practice known as 'wealth screening', and by trading the personal details of its donors with other charitable organisations.[23] The BBC reported that, "Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said donors had not been informed of the charity's practices, and were therefore unable to consent or object to them. She also suggested other charities could also be engaged in similar activities. 'The millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened to learn that their generosity wasn't enough,' Ms Denham added."[23] The same BBC report noted that the charity's chief executive had stated that "the ICO's conclusions were 'wrong, disproportionate and inconsistent […] We find the decision surprising, as earlier this year in June the ICO praised our data handling. Our trustees will therefore consider whether it's in the interests of our supporters and beneficiaries to challenge this decision."[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BHF appoints Dr Charmaine Griffiths as new Chief Executive".
  2. ^ "The Most Popular Charities & Organisations (Q3 2021)". YouGov. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  3. ^ "Who we are". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Where we fund". British Heart Foundation.
  5. ^ "Centres of Research Excellence". British Heart Foundation. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Centres of Regenerative Medicine". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  7. ^ "CPR kits for schools". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  8. ^ "DH and BHF make life saving defibrillator commitment". British Heart Foundation. 1 October 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  9. ^ "British Heart Foundation income remained flat last year". Third Sector. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  10. ^ "BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION - Charity 225971". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  11. ^ "BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION - Charity 225971". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  12. ^ "The Angina Monologues with Victoria Wood". 16 February 2007. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Our Annual Review and Accounts 2016". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Who we are". 28 October 2003. Archived from the original on 8 January 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  15. ^ "Heart health: Nation of lifesavers: Heartstart". British Heart Foundation. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  16. ^ "BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION - Charity 225971". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  17. ^ "Who we are". Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  18. ^ Oliver Wright (21 June 2011). "Animal rights group declares war on leading health charities". The Independent. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Charities are attacked over experiments experiments". The Scotsman. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Leeds University animal rights protest staged". BBC News. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  21. ^ Express, Ted Jeory, Sunday (2 September 2013). "EXCLUSIVE: Outrage as major UK charity uses donations to fund vivisection tests on dogs".
  22. ^ "British Heart Foundation article by BHF Medical Director Professor Peter Weissberg".
  23. ^ a b c "Charities fined over 'wealth screening' data breaches". BBC News Online. BBC. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.

External links[edit]