Published: 20 July 2020

Over 50 Members of Parliament have signed an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging Government to provide financial support for UK medical research charities.

The Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund, developed by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), has the support of politicians including Labour's Hilary Benn, Ed Davey from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives' Sir Roger Gale. They are calling on Government to bridge the projected £310 million shortfall in medical research charities' research spend over the next year.

The open letter, signed by over 50 cross-party MPs, urges the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to provide three years of matched funding via the proposed fund to protect the vital and unique contributions charity research makes to the UK’s society and economy. 

They stressed that medical research charities play an "integral role" within the UK’s world-leading research and development sector, which is one of the country's biggest strengths, stimulating new ideas and discoveries and playing a central role in advancing its economy, social well-being and health.

Charities have invested £14 billion in UK research since 2008. They account for half of publicly-funded medical research across the UK: as much as the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) added together.

The suspension of many fundraising activities and shop closures due to COVID-19 has had an immediate and severe impact on charities’ income, forcing charities to cut their research spend by 41% (£310 million) over the next year. The MPs warn that this will have significant long-term consequences for scientific advances that tackle diseases including the UK’s biggest killers, dementia, coronary heart disease and cancer as well as threatening the careers of scores of young scientists.

Recent funding announcements from Government for universities and charities will do little to remedy this.

Aisling Burnand MBE, Chief Executive of Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Charities are doing all they can to continue their life-changing research, but they cannot do it alone. The UK’s medical research charities urgently need Government to commit to a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to bridge their projected research spend gap.

“A return to pre-pandemic levels of income are not expected for some years, meaning there will be less funding for vital research that saves lives and brings hope to countless people, and potential damage to the world-class infrastructure and capacity we have built up over decades.

“The support for this open letter shows that MPs across the four nations and political divisions recognise the importance of charity funded research for their constituents affected by life limiting and life shortening illness, those committed to carrying out the research and to the economic investment made in R&D in the UK.

“By investing in charity-funded research, Government can help medical research charities deliver a better future for patients across the UK, protect the UK’s research skills and capabilities and contribute to economic growth.”

Editor’s Notes

Association of Medical Research Charities

For media enquiries contact Carol Bewick, Director of Communications and Membership Engagement ([email protected], 020 8078 6059) or Leonora Neale, Communications Manager ([email protected], 020 8078 6044).

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) has over 150 member charities that fund all stages of research - from basic science projects to clinical trials - in all areas of health and disease throughout the UK and overseas. They vary considerably in size, but each plays a vital role in the UK life sciences and economy.

As the UK went into lockdown charity shops were closed, fundraising events were cancelled, and donations were diverted to NHS charities. AMRC charities reported a 38% loss in fundraising income, leaving many with no option but to pause or stop research, withdraw funding calls, furlough charity staff and make redundancies.

At the end of April 73% (801 of 1,102) of clinical trials and studies funded by AMRC charities had been paused. As lockdown restrictions have lifted, we’ve started to see trials and studies resume, with the number of paused studies and trials dropping to 54% (540 of 996). However, some may never restart, their progress stalled by charities’ research funding cuts.

More than two thirds of AMRC charities are deferring upcoming grant rounds and withdrawing future funding. The impact of the pandemic will be felt by medical research charities and the patients they support for years to come.

MP signatories

Conservative Party (5)

  1. Derek Thomas
  2. James Davies
  3. Henry Smith
  4. Sir Roger Gale
  5. Steve Brine

Labour Party (20)

  1. Barbara Keeley
  2. Benjamin Bradshaw
  3. Catherine McKinnell
  4. Chris Bryant
  5. Clive Betts
  6. Clive Lewis
  7. Diana Johnson
  8. Derek Twigg
  9. George Howarth
  10. Hilary Benn
  11. John Cryer
  12. Lilian Greenwood
  13. Mick Whitley
  14. Mohammad Yasin
  15. Nick Smith
  16. Rebecca Long-Bailey
  17. Rosie Cooper
  18. Tonia Antoniazzi
  19. Sarah Champion
  20. Virendra Sharma

Liberal Democrats (4)

  1. Ed Davey
  2. Munira Wilson
  3. Sarah Olney
  4. Wera Hobhouse

Scottish National Party (15)

  1. Allan Dorans
  2. Anne McLaughlin
  3. Chris Law
  4. Drew Hendry
  5. John Nicolson
  6. Kenny MacAskill
  7. Philippa Whitford
  8. Margaret Ferrier
  9. Neale Hanvey
  10. Neil Gray
  11. Owen Thompson
  12. Patricia Gibson
  13. Richard Thomson
  14. Stuart McDonald
  15. Tommy Sheppard

Social Democratic and Labour Party (2)

  1. Claire Hanna
  2. Colum Eastwood

Democratic Unionist Party (4)

  1. Jim Shannon
  2. Paul Girvan
  3. Sammy Wilson
  4. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Plaid Cymru (2)

  1. Ben Lake
  2. Liz Saville-Roberts

Alliance Party (1)

  1. Stephen Farry