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Design and collaboration methods to test solutions to mental health and back and neck pain

Anindita Ghosh shares an update from four teams funded as part of Q Lab UK’s project in partnership with Mind on mental health and persistent back and neck pain.

In 2018, Q Lab UK worked in partnership with Mind focusing on how care can be designed to best meet the health and wellbeing needs of people living with both mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain. Q Lab UK offers a bold new approach to making progress on health and care challenges. Working on a single challenge, we bring together organisations and individuals from across the UK to pool what is known about a topic, uncover new insights and develop and test ideas.

Four fantastic ideas were developed and given funding to be implemented in practice. Just as they were getting started, the COVID-19 pandemic hit presenting all the teams with unexpected challenges. Each team had to learn new ways of working together, invest in partnerships and relationships, and lean on each other as they embraced ‘the power of the pivot’!

In true 2021 style, we celebrated the teams’ achievements virtually in May. Here I share a summary of each teams’ learning and successes, and encourage you to get in touch with the members involved to find out more.

Joint Pain Advice

Health Innovation Network 

The Health Innovation Network (HIN) team focused on supporting people with chronic joint pain, adapting Joint Pain Advice (JPA) for use in mental health settings. Working with six partners, they established pathways and trained 40 professionals to deliver JPA in their settings.

Challenges of the pandemic meant partners needed to adapt their model of delivery. HIN provided reflective spaces for partner organisations to learn from each other and consider ways to adapt delivery. One site piloted an online group delivery model and shared their approach across partner organisations. This enabled two other sites to change their delivery to a group method. This learning has led the team to consider hybrid models of delivery in the future and the team will be finalising their learning from partners over the summer.

Find out more about JPA on the Health Innovation Network website or contact JPA’s project manager Sally Irwin.

Psychologically Informed Collaborative Conversations

Health Innovation Network with St George’s Hospital and Kingston Hospital 

Health Innovation Network worked with clinical teams in Kingston and St George’s Hospital, Physiotherapy Pain Association and Duke University to develop Psychologically Informed Collaborative Conversations (PIC-C). PIC-C is a tool for physiotherapists to build their confidence to support patients presenting with pain in consultations.

PIC-C was co-created with people living with persistent pain. The team has published a report that highlights the journey taken to embed this tool and the value it brought to the project team.

The training and supervision package was delivered to 38 physiotherapists across St Georges’ and Kingston hospitals. The evaluation has all participants showed a positive impact on their confidence to change their practice. Physiotherapists also reflected improvements such as better relationships with colleagues and increased work satisfaction – which is particularly of value to the team and cohort given the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on health and care staff.

To find out more, you can watch the team talk about what they have learned or contact project lead Amy Semple.

BeeFree: A support hive for mind and movement for people with pain and mental health issues

Keele University and Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

The Keele team worked with local partners using a Community of Practice approach to develop their interventions. This gave them the opportunity to bring together staff, volunteers and service users to create and learn from each other in a safe, supported way. Together, they developed a training package, online resources and an animation sharing evidence-based messages to improve patient and staff understanding about the connection between mental health and musculoskeletal pain.​ The resources were designed to be made available to, and adapted by, other organisations to their local area – making them useful to a wider national audience.

The team then created a coherent brand to bring together all the resources and launched BeeFree in March 2021 with a social media campaign and virtual event.

Find out more on the BeeFree website or contact project lead Kay Stevenson.

Pain and Fatigue Management​

Powys Teaching Health Board 

The Pain and Fatigue Management service at Powys Teaching Health Board have ​been working to develop a bespoke digital service for people who are living with persistent pain and chronic fatigue. The team hopes that the platform will allow service users to manage their own physical and mental wellbeing from the point of referral to beyond discharge, through completion of an agreed management plan. Building on the substantial digital expertise that already existed in the service, the team hopes to provide a ‘digital ​by default’ approach. In the long term they aim to roll out the platform across Powys.

Currently, the team is in the testing phase of their proposed technical solution, working with the clinical team and user experience panel and have engaged with the Bevan Commission which supports teams to share best practice and learning across Wales.

Find out more by contacting project lead Owen Hughes.

How Q Lab UK supported the teams

This was the first time the Lab worked with testing teams in this way. We started by supporting them through a structured design process, to develop, prototype and test ideas over a six-month period, before awarding follow-on funding. Our approach encouraged teams to understand problems from a range of perspectives before moving straight to ideas and solutions, meaning that their ideas are tested thoroughly before implementation This is the model that we’ll be repeating in future Lab projects.

We saw how being part of the Q Lab UK process encouraged testing teams to form new collaborations and partnerships, across the mental and physical health divide, and with organisations in their local areas. The teams developed their expertise in bringing people together, with some fantastic examples of working with people with lived experience to guide their work. The time they invested in these relationships was an important enabler when their projects had to move online.  ​

What will we build on in the future?

Working with a group of teams doing similar work influenced each of the projects. Developmental workshops and action learning sets supported teams to learn from each other, providing much needed challenge and support.  With the move online, the teams reflected that they could have benefitted from more input and guidance from Q members. We’ll be looking at how we address this and invite more input from others – both on and offline – throughout the next project.

Interested in how Q Lab UK can support your work?

We’ll be announcing how you can get involved in the next Q Lab UK project soon, follow us on Twitter or keep an eye on the Q website for updates.

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