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Practical learning to improve care across mental and physical health services

Two new outputs from the Q Lab and Mind's 12-month partnership

Millions of people in the UK experience both mental and physical health problems. This affects people’s care and support needs, and poses challenges for how health and care services – and the people working within them – currently operate.

To understand how to overcome these challenges, between September 2018 and September 2019, the Q Lab and Mind worked in partnership to explore how care could be improved for people living with mental and physical health problems. Given the size of the challenge, we focused our work on the needs and experiences of people living with mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain. Today we publish two new outputs from this work together:

  1. A practical guide to support people to improve services for those of us living with both mental and physical health problems.
  2. A set of service principles that can be used to inform decisions about improving, designing or commissioning services across mental and physical health.

This work is the culmination of the Q Lab and Mind’s collaborative research, sensemaking, and testing, with insights from across the Q community which are relevant to the broader challenge of providing high quality mental and physical health support.

The practical guide

The guide identifies six areas that need addressing to enable health and care services to improve the support and care they provide to people living with mental and physical health problems. We draw out the challenges that people encounter, either through living with the conditions or working in health and care services. These challenges are what make improvements to our health and care services harder.

We then focus on opportunities to overcome these challenges to achieve change in practice. We make this real with case examples, drawing on learning from our work with five teams testing ideas and interventions that respond to these challenges.

Download the guide

Service principles

Through our research with people with lived experience, and listening to people’s stories and experiences, we wanted to provide these insights in a useable format for those designing, delivering, improving and commissioning services. So we have translated the themes into a set of service principles.

The principles describe what good quality care looks like – but not in a restrictive way. They provide ambition and direction for all those wanting to improve care for people living with both of these conditions. It may not be possible for services to meet all of the principles, but we hope they provide useful insights to inform the way services cold be developed, and will be a useful starting point when exploring peoples’ needs and experiences locally.

Download the principles

Using the outputs to inform improvement work

For Q members we hope this will bring to life challenges you may be facing and provide you with inspiration and ideas from others working in this field. In line with Q’s mission to support continuous and sustainable improvement in health and care, we share learning that is grounded in the realities of the day-to-day challenges you as improvers experience. We hope this provides you with the information and guidance to translate this learning into your own practice.

  • Download and use the outputs: Both the guide and the principles have been designed to help you apply the wealth of learning from this project in practice and to inform your improvement work.
  • Help share the outputs with your colleagues and networks: Do you know others who want to improve care across mental health and physical health? The outputs are accessible to a range of people affected by this challenge. Use this comms pack with suggested tweets and text to help spread the word.

Next steps

The Q Lab will be continuing to support the testing teams as they develop their improvement ideas further. We are particularly interested in capturing learning about the skills needed to do this work, and how to enable wider spread of the change we want to see in health and care services.

Mind will continue to develop its work with the local Mind network to consider how they can best support people living with long-term physical health conditions. It will also continue to champion this work through its national activities, in particular with its work alongside the Richmond Group of Charities and Sport England’s We are Undefeatable campaign.

Questions, thoughts or feedback? Do get in touch at or join the online group.

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