Simon Gillespie to retire from the British Heart Foundation

British Heart Foundation chief executive, Simon Gillespie, will be retiring from the charity at the end of December after almost seven years. 

Under Simon’s leadership, the BHF has grown to become one of the largest charities in the UK. It funds more than half the research at UK universities into heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attacks, stroke and vascular dementia, together with risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes. It is the world’s largest non-profit funder of heart and circulatory disease research with a global profile, whose work saves and improves lives across the world.

Doug Gurr, Chair of the BHF said:

“I would like to thank Simon for his outstanding contribution to the charity over almost seven years. His leadership has seen the BHF make a positive difference to thousands of lives every year. He has put people at the heart of this organisation which relies on the support of individuals, communities and companies to thrive and develop its life-saving work. We will be truly sorry to see Simon moving on at the end of this year but wish him the very best for his well-deserved retirement.”

This year Simon was honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, recognising his services to patients and medical research. He was also the only charity CEO to win an Employee’s Choice Award from Glassdoor this year, after being voted one of the top 50 CEOs in the country by employees and volunteers. In 2018, he was named as UK CEO of the Year by CEO Today magazine and also a CharityComms Inspiring Communicator in recognition of his tireless public advocacy of the BHF’s cause.

Simon said:

“It has been a huge privilege and a real pleasure to lead such a tremendous charity for almost seven years. I have been continually inspired by the tireless support given by the BHF’s staff, volunteers and supporters, and thank them for their hard work, dedication and friendship. I remain as passionate and committed to the cause of beating heartbreak forever, and I will continue to actively support the life-saving work of the BHF.”

Simon has driven the development of an ambitious new strategy that will take the BHF up to 2030. Informed by researchers, people affected by heart and circulatory diseases, supporters and staff, the bold new strategy sets out the progress the charity wants to see, whether that is new treatments, improved care or better management of risk factors.

Since the BHF was formed in 1961, research funded by the BHF has been at the world’s forefront in areas such as organ transplantation, genetics, prevention, treatments and aftercare. Key discoveries funded by the BHF have helped to halve the death rate from coronary heart disease.

Simon joined the BHF in 2013, following seven years as Chief Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. He has a family connection to heart disease, and fundraises and volunteers for the BHF. His early career was in the Royal Navy, including command of HMS Sheffield and advising government ministers.

From 2000 to 2004, he was Director of Operations at the Charity Commission. He then moved to become Head of Operations at the Healthcare Commission, where he was responsible for the inspection of NHS and independent healthcare facilities in England. Simon has extensive national and international experience of charity and non-profit governance as a non-executive director, advisor and trustee and is a former President of the European Heart Network.