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Over the past couple of months, the Q Improvement Labs have been working with Q members and others to get the first pilot lab up and running.

For those who are new to Q (the community has grown since our last blog) the Q Labs will bring people together from across the UK to work and make progress on complex challenges facing health and care. We will use existing knowledge to develop an in-depth understanding on an issue, conduct further research and analysis, generate ideas and test solutions. We have funding for one year to setup a pilot Lab and test the model in practice.

In addition to recruiting a lab team and moving in to a new lab office in Kings Cross, we’ve been working with the Q community to help us pick the first lab challenge. In January we asked members to vote for a broad theme and in March some of you attended the first Lab workshop to explore that theme further.

I’m delighted to let you know that as a result of that activity, we now have the first challenge for the pilot Lab:

‘What would it take for peer support to be available to everyone who wants it to help manage their long-term health and wellbeing needs?’

There is lots of existing evidence about the benefits of peer support and some great examples of what’s working. Peer support has been shown to lead to significant improvements for people with long-term physical and mental health conditions. There is evidence that peer support can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and that it can help people feel more knowledgeable and confident to look after their own health and wellbeing needs.

Despite this evidence effective peer support approaches are not widespread. There are questions to answer about how voluntary organisations and health services can work together, what circumstances make peer support most helpful for people, and how to make the case to commissioners. Over the coming year, the Lab will aim to take peer support to the next level.

How will we do this?

The Q Lab will draw on approaches that are common to other social innovation or change labs, such as designing solutions based on the user, testing new ideas, and working with a diverse group of people.

We will collaborate with Q members to test new ideas and share learning.

This will be combined with the wealth of improvement and health research that the Health Foundation and others have done on this area. We will collaborate with Q members to test new ideas and share learning.

The next phase of the Lab is research and discovery. We want to make sure we have a deep understanding about the current situation, before looking for opportunities to explore and innovate.

From the summer we will be generating ideas, and simulating and testing solutions that could help to scale up effective peer support approaches. The final phase will focus on how to distill the learning and support the continued sharing of ideas into practice. As Q continues to grow, there will be exciting opportunities to explore how knowledge is shared with an active community of thousands of improvers.

We hope that the Q Lab will be a new way of working through some of the most complex health and care issues. Our pilot year will undoubtedly come with lots of learning about what is and isn’t working and we look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Want to be involved?

Q members are key to the success of the Lab and we will be drawing on the community’s wealth of experience and expertise.

It’s the Q community that makes the Lab unique

In fact, it’s the Q community that makes the Lab unique, enabling us to develop new ideas that can be tested, implemented and benefit both patients and those working in health and care.

There will be lots of ways for Q members to get involved, whether you can commit just 10 minutes a week or 10 days a year.

If you have experience and expertise in this topic (or are interested in setting up a Lab and what that entails) please do take a look and get in touch. We think this is a really exciting opportunity. Come join us!

Help with the research

The research phase will start with understanding the current state of evidence and learning from people who are active in this area. Do you have thoughts and ideas on this that you’d like to share? If so please get in touch.

In the coming month we will be asking all Q members to answer a few simple questions about peer support, to surface the collective intelligence that you hold as a community. Look out for more information about this in Qmunicate and on this site.

Want to be involved? Email and we’ll be in touch. You can find out more about the Q Lab here and follow the @theQCommunity on Twitter.


  1. Guest

    Stan Burridge 5 years ago

    Involving those with 'lived experience' is the minimum requirement for peer support or involvement.

    Not in large numbers, dropping them in like office angels, but in small numbers, with the interest of the 'expert' above the gain for the organisation.

    At Pathway we have developed a way which we involve those with a 'lived experience' of homelessness, the handbook we have created is not a difinitive guide, it is simply an example of how to demonstrate that we are thinking about those who selflessly give their time and their expertise.

    For more about the work we do, please visit


  2. Guest

    Libby Keck 5 years ago

    Hi Stan


    Thanks for getting in touch, and sharing the link for your involvement handbook - this looks like a great piece of work.


    If you or anyone else at Pathway would like to get involved in this work please do let us know - there is more info on the Labs page here




  3. Guest

    Dominique Allwood 5 years ago

    Stan, I hadn't come across the Pathway handbook before, I will definitely be sign posting people to it!

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