Who we are

The charity was set up by barristers John Grace QC and Dr Laura Davidson, and Professor Clair Chilvers, former Chair of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. A number of leading researchers in the field are advising on the development of the initiative which also has the support of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The Trustees of Mental Health Research UK are very grateful to the South London and Maudsley Charitable Trust and a private family foundation for funding the set-up of the charity.

Our Board of Trustees

Professor Clair Chilvers DSc, Founding Trustee and Chair of Trustees

Clair Chilvers was formerly Chair of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and before that of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust one of the largest providers of mental health and learning disability services in England. She was formerly Director of the Mental Health Research and Development Portfolio at the Department of Health and Director of the National Forensic Mental Health R&D Programme. She is a Trustee of the McPin Foundation and Deputy Chair of Trustees of the Barnwood Trust in Gloucestershire.

Previously she was Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and from 1996 to 1999 was Dean of the University's Graduate School. She was a member of the Department of Health Committee on Carcinogenicity of Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment from 1993 to 2000 and a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution from 1994 to 1998.
She has been a Trustee of the Centre for Mental Health and of the LloydsTSB Foundation for England and Wales and a Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire.


Dr. Laura Davidson, Founding Trustee

Laura Davidson is a barrister with a Ph.D in mental health law and human rights at No. 5 Chambers in London (
www.no5.com). Her work involves all aspects of healthcare law, but she has a particular interest and expertise in mental health and mental capacity law. During her time as an academic she taught law to Cambridge undergraduates, and continues to lecture widely. She regularly publishes articles in legal journals and has co-authored and contributed to two legal books. In 2001, she won the International Academy of Law and Mental Health's inaugural Annual Junior Scholar Award, in recognition of distinguished contribution to scholarship in law and psychiatry.

Laura's desire to set up a charity dedicated to funding research into the causes of mental illness arose from her frustration that so many sectioned patients she represented in psychiatric hospitals were unresponsive or resistant to current treatments.


Lord Neuberger, Trustee

The Rt. Hon. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury (in the county of Dorset) was sworn in as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on 1 October 2012 previously he was Master of the Rolls from 1st October 2009 – 30 September 2012.


Lord Neuberger was born on 10 January 1948, and educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford University. After working at NM Rothschild & Sons 1970-73, he was called to the Bar (Lincoln’s Inn) in 1974. He was made a Bencher for Lincoln’s Inn in 1993.

He was appointed as a Queen’s Counsel in 1987, and his first judicial appointment was as a Recorder, between 1990 and 1996. In 1996 he was appointed as a High Court Judge in the Chancery Division. He was the Supervisory Chancery Judge for the Midland, Wales and Chester and Western Circuits for 2000-04. In January 2004 he was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal. In January 2007 he was appointed as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (a ‘Law Lord’) and given a life peerage.

Professor Nick Rawlins, Trustee

Professor Nick Rawlins was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs, University of Oxford, in October 2010. Professor Rawlins completed both his BA and DPhil at Oxford. His research spans areas including the neural basis of memory, brain degeneration, pain and anxiety, and has published widely in these fields.


He was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2006 and Fellow of the British Psychological Society in 2010. Professor Rawlins was Associate Head of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division from 2008 until taking up his present post.

He was a Junior Research Fellow at University College and then a Senior Research Fellow there before taking up a tutorial Fellowship which he held for more than 20 years, as University Lecturer and Sir Jules Thorne Tutorial Fellow. He moved to Wolfson College as a Professorial Fellow in 2007.

David Pugh, Trustee

David Pugh is a taxation consultant specialising in all aspects of personal taxation. He began his career with the Inland Revenue in 1965 before joining Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co in 1970. He became assistant tax manager in the personal tax department in 1981. In 1987 the firm joined forces in the first mega-merger of larger accountancy firms and formed Peat Marwick McLintock before being renamed KPMG in 1995.

In 1996 after nearly 27 years he was asked to become the personal tax manager of the Nottingham office of Neville Russell later to become Mazars a position he held until setting up his own practice Robertson Pugh & Co in 2008 at the age of 60 despite also being actively involved on a day to day basis in an investment property business. Robertson Pugh & Co is already well established with an extremely diverse range of clients including high net worth individuals, family owned businesses, non residents and trusts.

His work has for over 45 years related to all aspects of personal taxation but he also has a wide experience of probate work and acts as an Attorney for many Enduring Power of Attorney cases. David became a Trustee in March 2011.

Ann G Dickinson BVSc. M.R.C.V.S., Trustee

Ann Dickinson is a veterinary surgeon working in a small animal practice in North Wales. She has run her own veterinary clinic for 26 years and has been president of the North Wales Veterinary Association. She also serves the local community as a Justice of the Peace both on the adult and youth bench.


Following the loss of a close friend through acute depression and suicide she has become involved with Mental Health Research UK. Aware of the problems within her profession of the high rate of suicide amongst veterinary surgeons she has joined the campaign to increase research funding into the causes of depression.

Ann became a Trustee in March 2011.



Laura Purdam, Trustee

Knowing the impacts that mental health issues can have on all involved, Laura wanted to use her skills and experience to help in any way she could. Alongside working, Laura started volunteering for Mental Health Research UK in April 2015 and has since become a trustee for the charity. Laura takes responsibility for administering our PhD programme on a voluntary basis.

Laura gained a degree in psychology at the University of Leeds, where the course was well suited to her analytical nature and her interest in research. Her knowledge gained at university, particularly surrounding depression and the importance of valid research, has supported her decision to get involved with Mental Health Research UK.





Dr Vanessa Pinfold, Trustee

Vanessa Pinfold has a Phd from the Department of Geography, University of Nottingham where she worked looking at the impact of mental health deinstitutionalisation. Since then she taken her research interest to Kings College London and the then Institute of Psychiatry, Rethink Mental illness and recently to set up a charity – the Mcpin Foundation (www.mcpin.org). She has peer review publications on stigma and discrimination, carer support, co-production and wellbeing networks. Vanessa is passionate about the importance of mental health research and chairs the Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders. MHRUK and the McPin Foundation have agreed to formalise our close working relationship by appointing Vanessa to the MHRUK Board and Clair Chilvers to the McPin Foundation Board.

MHRUK and the McPin Foundation have agreed to formalize our existing close working relationship in order to support each other better. Click here for more details. 

Past Trustees

John Grace QC, L.L.B (2007-2010), Former and Co-founding Trustee


John Grace was called to the Bar in 1973, appointed Queen's Counsel in 1994, and was Head of his chambers from 2000 to 2007. His work for over 20 years exclusively related to all aspects of medicine, medical, and mental health law and practice. He represented patients, NHS Trusts and all the Medical Defence Organisations in clinical negligence and disciplinary cases, and had wide experience of medical ethical cases, such as applications to the High Court for declarations in relation to mentally incapacitated patients and judicial review in relation to medical treatment.


John was Consultant Editor of Lloyd's Law Reports Medical for many years, and was Chairman of various Bar Council committees and working groups. He was the Bar Council representative on the Lord Chancellor's Department Clinical Negligence Working Group. He had a close family member who suffered from severe mental illness, for whom he was nearest relative under the Mental Health Act 1983. Sadly John died on 16 July 2011 - he is greatly missed.

MHRUK has since set up the John Grace QC Scholarship in schizophrenia research in John's memory, and 6 Ph.D Scholarships have been awarded in his name. Click here for more information: MHRUK aims to continue to offer this Scholarship annually in the future.

Stevie Pattison-Dick, Former Trustee
Herman van Bellingen, Former Trustee
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