Updated 22 April 2021

In this live blog we provide updates on our response work and signpost relevant statements, guidance, and resources for our charities.  

AMRC response work

Since the pandemic started, medical research charities have lost at least £292 million in income, forcing them to cut £270 million of their research spend. AMRC has been working tirelessly to collect and share evidence, issue reactive statements, and campaign for Government to provide financial support. 105 MPs and Peers, and 23 Members of Scottish Parliament advocated for Government financial support for medical research charities. Over 140 news pieces (online, print and TV) and featured our messaging and statistics.

On 20 March, we issued a statement in response to the pausing of non-COVID19 research, stating that the decisions should be made with the impact on patients in mind and communicated transparently and sensitively.

On 8 April, the Chancellor announced a £750 million support package for frontline charities. The following day, we sent a letter to the Chancellor highlighting that the package would falsely reassure the public that medical research charities would receive financial support and calling for targeted and tailored emergency funding for the charity-funded research.

On 17 April, we published a briefing with statistics about the impact of COVID-19 on our member charities from two surveys we circulated in March.

On 22 April, the House of Lords held a debate on the challenges faced by the charitable sector due to COVID-19. AMRC briefed Peers ahead of the debate and medical research charities were referenced throughout.

On 30 April, we published a statement on Government's job retention scheme highlighting the lack of clarity for what should have been done for researchers that charities fund. In May, the statement was updated to further clarify our position.

On 11 June, AMRC published an infographic (over 2,500 online views) outlining key facts and figures about the immediate and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on AMRC charities.

On 17 June, we published our Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund proposal (over 340 downloads), which set out a co-investment scheme to provide a level of match funding from Government.

On 23 June, we held a virtual media briefing via the Science Media Centre. Our CEO and Chief Executives from Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Parkinson’s UK each elaborated on the devastating impact of the pandemic on medical research charities, how this would affect patients and the need for Government to commit to the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund. A press release, featuring quotes from all four Chief Executives and keys statistics about the impact on the individual charities, was circulated to the Science Media Centre’s health and science journalist mailing list. This led to coverage in over 30 news outlets including The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sky News and Channel 4 News.

On 1 July, we issued a response to the Government’s Research and Development Roadmap noting that Government recognised the importance of charity funding but remained opaque on how it would ease the urgent need for support.

On 20 July, we sent an open letter signed by over 50 Members of Parliament to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It featured in an exclusive with The Guardian.

On 6 August, Chi Onwurah published a press release calling on Government to provide financial support to medical research charities. We worked with Chi’s media team to develop the piece. It led to an interview with Times Radio and coverage in the I paper, Evening Standard and local newspapers via the Press Association.

On 27 August, following conversations with the Francis Crick Institute, Sir Paul Nurse, their CEO and Director, warned of the catastrophic consequences if the UK government failed to support the country’s medical research charities in an interview with Radio 4’s Today Programme. He later wrote an Op Ed for The Telegraph. We also met with Lord Bethell and Amanda Solloway MP to discuss the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund and the university research support package.

On 1 September, we sent an open letter signed by over 30 pharma and tech companies to the Prime Minister. It featured in an exclusive with the Financial Times.

On 9 September, Lord Patel, Lord Turnberg, Lord Kakkar, Baroness Randerson and Baroness Walmsley advocated for medical research charities in a Lord’s debate following briefings from AMRC. On the same day Rachel Maskell MP raised medical research charities in a debate on the protection of jobs and businesses in the House of Commons. In addition to this, over 1,000 researchers, charities, and other stakeholders from across the R&D sector joined us on Twitter in calling on the Department of Business, Energy, and the Industrial Strategy to protect charity research. #ResearchAtRisk made it into the top 25 trends in the UK.

On 23 September, a Letter to The Editor, written by AMRC and signed by 25 Peers of the House of Lords was published in The Times. The letter stressed that if Government wanted to fulfil its manifesto commitment to make the UK the leading global hub for life sciences it would have to work with charities to ensure their vital contributions would not be lost.

At the end of September, we circulated two surveys: a survey for charity-funded researchers to understand how they had been affected by the pandemic; and a survey for member charities to provide updated statistics on the impact of COVID-19 on their income and research funding. The results were used to grow our case for Government to support the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund.

We held regular meetings with officials from the Department of Business, Energy, and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department of Health and Social Care to make the case for the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund and articulate the impact of COVID-19 on the sector’s research spend. We worked closely with BEIS in the run up to the deadline for departmental Spending Review bids on 25 September to make the case for inclusion of the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund. Following all of our engagement with officials and campaign work, BEIS included a line in their departmental Spending Review bid for funding to support charity-funded medical research. When a one-year settlement was announced in October, we updated our messaging to urge that HMT make a one-year commitment to the Fund and lay the foundations for continuing support to protect charity funded research.

On 23 October, the Institute for Public Policy Research published a report (supported by AMRC, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK) on how to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Health R&D investment. This was shared with Government officials.

On 28 October, we published the survey results on the risk COVID-19 poses to charity-funded early career researchers in an infographic (over 300 online views). Media outreach about these results led to coverage in The Telegraph, The Sun, Mail Online, and the Scotsman. Our CEO was also interviewed for Sky News, BBC Scotland, and Times Radio. On the same day AMRC charities, researchers and stakeholders took to Twitter to share these results and urge HM Treasury to back charity-funded research at risk in the spending review. #ResearchAtRisk made it into the top 25 trends in the UK.

In October, we also published a briefing (over 180 online views) outlining how our charities could partner with Government to accelerate economic recovery and secure the UK’s position as a scientific superpower. 

On 13 November, the Lancet published a comment piece by the CEOs of AMRC, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, warning without Government support, life-saving progress for patients would be at risk.

On 18 November, we published a joint statement (over 210 online views) with 13 leading industry and charity organisations on the importance of a thriving UK life sciences research sector to accelerate recovery. 

On 10 and 11 November, we brought together over 30 member CEOs with Parliamentarians at our Dial into Westminster virtual event. An action agreed from the event led to a House of Commons debate on 24 November about recognising and preserving the value of charity-funded medical research in the 2020 Spending Review. It was opened by Dr James Davies MP and Chris Green MP, and MPs Liz Twist, Wera Hobhouse, Rachael Maskell, Neal Harvey, Lucy Powell and Amanda Solloway participated in the debate.

On 25 November, AMRC issued a response to the Government’s Spending Review 2020 and wrote to the Chancellor and Prime Minister welcoming the increase in funding for research and innovation but urging Government to provide clarity on how the Spending Review will support charity-funded research.

On 10 January, AMRC launched a campaign asking the public to write to the Prime Minister to urge him to provide financial support to medical research charities. Over 7,000 people wrote to the Prime Minister via our platform.

On 26 January, AMRC issued a response to the UK Research and Innovation announcement that three research institutions hit by a loss of charity funding would receive a share of £10 million funding from Research England’s Specialist Institutions Fund. AMRC welcomed the funding but highlighted it was a “band-aid on a bullet wound” and that Government needed to provide financial support to medical research charities.

On 18 February, the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock met with AMRC and six charities to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on vital charity-funded medical research. He subsequently wrote to Secretary of State for Business Kwasi Kwarteng urging him to support our charities.

On 3 March, AMRC issued a response to Government’s Budget 2021, expressing the sector's disappointment that no support was provided to medical research charities and its hope that Government would provide some support from funding allocated in the Spending Review 2020.

On 17 March, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at BEIS Amanda Solloway and Kwasi Kwarteng were questioned in Parliament by MPs on charity-funded research.

At the end of March, the Commons Science & Technology Committee Chair, Greg Clark MP and Chair of the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, Lord Patel both wrote letters to the Prime Minister highlighting the need for support for charity-funded medical research alongside funding issues associated with the Official Development Assistance and Horizon Europe.

On 25 March, the Chair of the Commons Liaison Committee raised the Commons STC letter with the Prime Minister who responded “we want to make sure that scientists do not have the discontinuity that you talk about”.

On 1 April, Government announced £250 million to help pay for the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, an international research programme. AMRC responded stating that, although welcome, this would not remedy the drastic shortfall in charity research funding. Alongside the Institute for Cancer Research, Cancer Research UK and the Francis Crick Institute we spoke to The Guardian, expressing our dismay at ministers’ failure to protect charity-funded research at risk.

On 15 April, during a Lords Science and Technology Committee meeting, Kwasi Kwarteng responded to a question raised by Baroness Warwick stating Government had plans to help plug the charity research funding shortfall. He confirmed that funding allocations would be announced after Purdah.

On 21 April, our CEO presented new evidence about the impact of the pandemic on medical research charities at the Science and Technology Committee oral evidence session on the role of technology, research and innovation in the COVID-19 recovery. Later that day, we published an infographic highlighting this new evidence. We took to twitter alongside our charities and supportive stakeholders using the #ResearchAtRisk hashtag to highlight the £270 million in charity research spend that has been lost since the pandemic started and urging Government to provide financial support. This generated coverage in The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and The Guardian.

AMRC support

Over the last year, we adapted our support for member charities to address challenges brought about by the pandemic.

268 people from 107 organisations joined our online COVID-19 support forum. Over 100 announcements, questions and conversation threads helped charities navigate new and challenging issues related to COVID-19.

We held regular virtual meetings with our charity CEOs to update them on our COVID-19 response work and listen to their concerns. 

We advertised volunteer opportunities in our weekly mailing to enable furloughed member charity staff to volunteer for other member charities. We also helped staff who were made redundant stay connected to the sector for six months by permitting access to our newsletters and job mailings. 

In April, we supported the launch of the Healthcare Communications Association website where health charities can request communications volunteer support from HCA members.

Sector statements, guidance and resources

We regularly refresh this list to ensure it reflects the latest statements, guidance and resources.  

Legal resources

Simmons & Simmons, an international law firm, have a dedicated section on their website with links to resources about the legal aspects of COVID-19.

Charities supporting the national response

Our member charities are using their expertise and resources to support the national response to the crisis however they can. 

Charity information for researchers

Our member charities have published position statements and guidance on COVID-19 for their grant applicants and grant holders.