Fears over the future of heart research in Cardiff

November 21, 2016 at 4:44 PM

Julie Morgan, the Assembly Member for Cardiff North, has questioned the future of heart research in Cardiff after plans to 'downgrade' the role of the Welsh Heart Research Institute (WHRI) have emerged.

She held a debate in the Senedd on November 16 on the future of vital heart research at the Sir Geraint Evans building where the WHRI has been based since the building was established in 1999 – thanks to a massive public fundraising effort headed up by the famous opera singer, Sir Geraint, who sadly died in 1992.

Julie Morgan said: "I'm sad to say that the heart research at the WHRI is being diluted and dissipated – some British Heart Foundation (BHF) research work is moving to Swansea University and other heart research staff have been moved out to different buildings or left as a result of the Medic Forward reorganisation programme introduced by the University.

"The South Wales Echo had a big part to play in the funding of the Sir Geraint Evans WHRI building – with the Have a Heart Campaign Echo readers had raised more than £100,000 by 1997 and there were fundraising events large and small across the whole of Wales – and people were very clear, this was for a dedicated heart research building. In fact the WHRI was the first dedicated heart research building in Britain.

"Now its future is uncertain but one thing we know is that there won't be a specialist heart research centre at Cardiff Medical School any more.

The Welsh Heart Research Institute has been home to groundbreaking heart research

"There were fears that the building would be turned into an administrative centre but that has now been denied. I do understand that Cardiff University cannot specialise in everything but as recently as 2014 some world-leading research emerged from the WHRI to help combat the causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest which is a particular killer in young people – and which nearly killed the footballer Fabrice Muamba on the pitch in 2012 live on TV," said Julie Morgan AM.

Julie Morgan added: "This week it emerged that dementia is now the number one killer across England and Wales but heart disease is still the leading cause of death for men and despite the improvements brought in by the Welsh Government Wales still has a particular problem with heart disease."

Cardiff's Welsh Heart Research Institute - campaign led by Wales' most famous ever opera singer

Famous Welsh opera singer Sir Geraint Evans championed the cause of having a specialist heart research institute in Cardiff. Having started off the fundraising drive in 1991 he sadly died in 1992 but his wife Lady Brenda Evans took up the mantle. The charity set up in his name to raise funds for the WHRI was championed by Prince Charles and by leading public figures of the day. The British Heart Foundation gave a grant of £500,000 for the building which eventually cost £3.5m.

The charity bequeathed the building to Cardiff Medical School specifically for the purpose of heart research. The charity still exists and bequests are still coming in which were promised at the time for the purpose of heart research at the WHRI.