Coronavirus: UK charity sector set to lose £7.8bn for medical research

Kalila Sangster
·3-min read
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Medical research charities lost almost 38% of their fundraising income for the last academic year, according to a think tank. Photo: Getty

Medical research charities are expected to lose £7.8bn ($10.1bn) in lost charity income due to the adverse economic conditions caused by COVID-19 between now and 2027, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Medical research charities lost almost 38% of their fundraising income for the last academic year and are set to lose over 25% this academic next year, the analysis found.

The losses are due to restrictions on fundraising events, charity shop closures and wider economic uncertainty, according to the IPPR.

The think tank estimates that there will be up to £4.1bn less investment in health research and development (R&D) by medical research charities, due to lost charitable income between now and 2027.

There is also likely to be a £3.8bn reduction in private sector investment in the charity sector, IPPR estimates.

IPPR have warned that this will lead to fewer new treatments for patients, pointing to the important health innovations that have been made by medical research charities over the last century.

READ MORE: UK government scraps three-year Spending Review due to COVID-19

The think tank also said that the loss in charity fundraising income will have a “substantial economic impact,” as “R&D boosts productivity, which is crucial for improving living standards, delivering better public services and sustaining wage growth.”

A reduction in R&D investment will also mean fewer jobs for researchers and technicians, IPPR warns, as UK unemployment hits 4.5%, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Chris Thomas, senior IPPR health fellow and lead author of the report, said: “The impact of COVID-19 on the fundraising income of this country’s medical research charities the most pressing problem.

“Though their work is sometimes unseen, research charities are the lifeblood of UK life sciences. It will only be to the detriment of all our health if we leave them — in their hour of need — on the proverbial crash cart.

“Their investment is crucial to discovering the medicines and technologies that might, one day, save your life. We urge the government to put in place measures to keep their vital work going.”

IPPR are calling on the government to take action to support the whole life science sector — including healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology companies.

READ MORE: UK economic recovery 'slows' in September

The think tank wants the government to implement a new, three-year life sciences charity partnership fund to support medical research charities and make up the shortfall in medical charity income caused by COVID-19.

IPPR is also urging the government to improve investment in life science infrastructure to attract and retain private investment, including “physical infrastructure” such as transport and broadband and “social infrastructure” which includes skills and training.

Shreya Nanda, IPPR economist and co-author of the report said: “The pandemic presents major risks for the life sciences, but also an opportunity, as countries all over the world prioritise health spending and aim to build back with a more resilient healthcare system.

“The life sciences are a key area of strength for the UK. We should position ourselves to take advantage of these opportunities, and not let a temporary drop in investment lead to a permanent loss.”

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