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Professor Judy Laing secures parliamentary fellowship to help brief MPs on mental health law reform

Professor Judy Laing, Professor of Mental Health Law, Rights and Policy, University of Bristol

Lizzie Parkin, Library Clerk, Health Policy, Social Policy Section, House of Commons Library

Press release issued: 15 January 2021

The Law School’s Professor of Mental Health Law, Rights and Policy, Judy Laing, has secured a parliamentary academic fellowship to work with the House of Commons’ Library to provide expertise in mental health law.

Commencing in January 2021, the aim of Professor Laing’s Parliamentary Academic Fellowship is to contribute to the provision of the best possible analysis for parliamentarians on reforms to the Mental Health Act, and the implications of Covid-19 for law and policy related to mental health and human rights.

The package of Mental Health Act reforms, announced by the government on 13 January 2021, sets out to provide individuals with mental health issues who are detained under the Act with more control over their care and treatment.

The Department of Health and Social Care stated: “At the heart of the proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act is greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis, ensuring the act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way, that patients receive the care they need to help them recover and all patients are viewed and treated as individuals.

“These reforms aim to tackle the racial disparities in mental health services, better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and autism and ensure appropriate care for people with serious mental illness within the criminal justice system.”

Professor Judy Laing said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this parliamentary fellowship and looking forward to working with Lizzie Parkin and her colleagues in the Social Policy section of the House of Commons Library for the next 6 months.  

“The fellowship is an exciting opportunity to work in the House of Commons library and witness law-making in action in Westminster - subject of course to any Covid-related restrictions. 

“The government has just announced the Mental Health White Paper proposals to amend the law this month and I hope to work with the Social Policy team in the Library to prepare briefings on the reform proposals for parliamentarians.”

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic Professor Laing has been advising a local mental health trust and a Clinical Commissioning Group on the ethical and human rights implications of the Covid pandemic.

She has also been awarded rapid response funding to conduct research into the implications of Covid-19 in detention settings for the treatment and wellbeing of detainees, working as Principal Investigator with colleagues Professor Rachel Murray and Debra Long in the Human Rights Implementation Centre, and the UK National Preventive Mechanism.

Further information

Professor Judy Laing is Professor of Mental Health Law, Rights and Policy and has a long-standing research interest in mental health/capacity and healthcare law. She has published extensively on these topics. Judy is now an expert adviser to the Care Quality Commission’s Mental Health Act Advisory Group (2014-present) and is a member of the editorial boards of the Medical Law Review, the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, and Medicine, Science and the Law.

The Law School Coronavirus Research Hub brings together the work of academics at the forefront of global efforts to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 through law and policy adaptation, and to understand the immediate and longer-lasting impacts of the pandemic.

Policy Bristol is a University of Bristol based team dedicated to the targeted dissemination of policy-relevant research findings to policy and practitioner audiences. Its aim is to bridge the gap between research and policy, to enhance the influence of research on effective policy development and implementation.

The Centre for Health, Law, and Society (CHLS) promotes cross-disciplinary and cross-sector perspectives on the impacts of law and governance on physical, mental and social wellbeing. Based within the University of Bristol Law School, the CHLS comprises leading scholars whose work focuses on wide-ranging practical areas from within and far beyond health care systems, including clinical medicine, reproductive care, mental health, social care, and public and global health.

The Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) is a leading institution for the implementation of human rights, that works in collaboration with a number of organisations and bodies, including those in the United Nations, the African Union, the Council of Europe, as well as with governments and organisations at the national level.

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