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Charmaine Griffiths, CEO of the British Heart Foundation, shares her views and passion for her work

Charmaine Griffiths, CEO of the British Heart Foundation

About Charmaine Griffiths

Dr Charmaine Griffiths is the Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation (BHF). She re-joined the BHF as its Chief Executive from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) where she had a range of strategic and operational responsibilities; most recently as Chief Operating Officer. The ICR is one of the world's most influential cancer research organisations, with more than 1100 scientists and staff and an income of more than £140m.

She also holds leadership roles for several ambitious initiatives, including the London Cancer Hub and the pioneering new £75m Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.

Charmaine did her PhD and postdoctoral research in Neuroscience at University College London, alongside working in public engagement for the Wellcome Trust. Her subsequent career at the BHF included roles spanning communications, policy and assurance, as well as strategy.

Her non-executive experience includes roles at the Human Tissue Authority, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Brain Research UK and the Cranfield Trust.

Charmaine led the development of our previous organisational strategy, winning the Best Strategic Transformation category at the Chief Strategy Officer Awards 2014.

About this Episode

Charmaine Griffiths, CEO of the British Heart Foundation, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about the challenges posed by the pandemic, the immense value of partnerships and why a sense of urgency matters.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is at the forefront of funding cardiovascular research, with £447m in active research commitments across the UK, powered by 4,000 staff and 20,000 volunteers. They are celebrating their 60th birthday in 2021.

Every year the BHF funds around £100m in new research, backing the best talent and a wide range of projects, from data science and new AI technology to genetics and regenerative medicine.

They embrace a strong sense of urgency in support of the 7.6m people who have cardiovascular disease in the UK and we hear of the pressing need to tackle patient waiting lists, which pose a real threat to many people in serious medical need.

The BHF relies on strong, diverse partnerships with key stakeholders from the private sector, government, academia, other charities and many other sectors — both nationally and locally. Partnerships are crucial to the BHF and we explore some specific partnerships during this episode.

Charmaine also provides much insight into the challenges she faced while managing the BHF during the COVID-19 pandemic. She joined as CEO in February 2020, just as the pandemic was taking off and had to close their offices shortly thereafter — facing a steep learning curve as she and her colleagues learned to operate in a digital environment. A real challenge when you need to engage with 20,000 volunteers.

The pandemic impacted every aspect of the BHF’s operations, including its 730 shops and stores, which are scattered across the whole of the UK.

During the worst moments of the pandemic, BHF was losing £10m monthly. Last summer, they reduced the operating size of the core organisation by 25% to ensure they maximised and protected their revenues from charitable work, with the aim of ensuring they didn’t have to reduce any of their research activities.

Fortunately, their stores have now reopened and their offices have embraced a hybrid working model — a new way of working they are looking to maintain for the long-term. We hear about their Flexibly Connected programme that redesigned their office environment and ensures people have what they need when they work from home and aims to encourage office use as convening spaces for collaboration.

This is a fascinating and inspiring chat with an energetic CEO who cares deeply about the British Heart Foundation and the millions of people it supports.

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