Heart charity 'faces cuts' without new funding

  • By Gil Dummigan
  • Health Correspondent, BBC News, North West

image caption,

Hardbeat CEO Louis Bachay says applying for public funding is difficult

A Lancashire charity which has helped thousands of ex-heart patients stay healthy says it may have to cut services if it can't secure extra funding.

More than 900 people a week use Heartbeat, which runs exercise and fitness classes at nine centres.

Most users are informal NHS referrals, but Heartbeat does not receive public funding at £1m a year to run.

The charity says the financial crisis has reduced people's ability to donate.

Cardiophysiologist Debbie Crossley said: „Especially post-Covid, all prices have gone up, everything we use.

„The only thing that is lacking is funding.”

Debbie is part of a team that conducts NHS standard tests for every gym member.

The team is on site to provide backup if anyone in the class has a medical problem.

image caption,

Debbie Crossley worries Heartbeat 'won't be here' in a year or two

David Bolton, 86, has been a regular since heart surgery four years ago.

He said: “The thing about Heartbeat is that it's not just a gym.

„You have people around you who have had similar experiences, and of course your back-up is a medical team… if things go pear-shaped, you've got them there”.

Jimmy Martin was Everton's kit manager for 34 years before suffering a heart attack last summer. He was referred to the charity by the Blackpool hospital that treated him.

„It's the best thing I've ever done. People have been brilliant. I'm feeling better and back to normal,” he said.

„The way they look after people is amazing.”

Jimmy is now contacting contacts in the Premier League to raise money for charity for memorabilia.

The charity has been running for 40 years and relies heavily on donations.

Ms Bache said: „People don't want to donate to charities anymore because the general cost of living has gone up so much.

„They have other costs to deal with first.”

Ms Bache said charities such as Heartbeat could apply for some public funding, but in practice this would be more difficult.

She said: „It looks like we're seeing a block (where we've been told), 'Yes, we think it's going to be a funded project, but we've run out of money or there's not enough to fund it.'

Previous attempts were aborted before the application was properly submitted.

'Key Point'

The National Council for Voluntary Organizations (NCVO) is trying to simplify the funding process for charities like Heartbeat.

Sam Mercadante, NCVO policy and intelligence manager, said trying to get funding is a common challenge for members.

„We know that this kind of work requires stability, it requires stable funding, it requires planning for the future.

„Often the impacts companies try to make in their communities take years.

„You want people and communities to have the certainty that the service they need will be around for a long time,” he said.

After a hiatus of several years, the foundation is about to start the application process for another grant again, while also moving forward with fundraising.

Ms Crossley says it has reached a critical juncture.

„The concern is that if we don't get funding from somewhere else, Heartbeat won't be here in two or three years,” he said.

„So anyone still down there, or someone's family, they don't get a heart attack, and that would be a terrible shame 40 years from now.”

NHS England said it could not comment on the specific case of Heartbeat, but legislation introduced in 2022 would support local health funding for suitable charities.

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