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The Q Improvement Lab brings people and organisations together (Q members and others from across the UK) to pool what is known about a complex challenge in health and care, develop and test ideas, and spread the learning widely.

‘Testing’ has been part of the Lab process since it launched in 2017: it’s an exciting opportunity to apply what is learned through collaborative research and turn it to practical actions to improve care and services.

During the Lab’s first project on peer support, testing was done collectively with Lab participants and resulted in the Peer Support Hub. National Voices have taken this forward and the Hub will launch in Spring 2019.

The testing process has since been improved and refined. Below I share how develop and testing ideas will work in practice, the organisations involved and – importantly – how the learning will be of benefit to the wider Q community.

First step: understanding the issue

Since September 2018, the Q Lab has been working in partnership with Mind – the mental health charity – to explore 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.

Working with over 100 people (Lab participants) who have expertise or lived experience of the issue, we have spent the first few months bringing together what is currently known about the topic; understanding where care is working well and where improvements can be made. It is during this period that the Lab process asks those involved to ‘go slow, to go fast’; taking time to deeply understand the topic, before moving to action to test and iterate ideas.

Who and how?

We’re delighted to introduce you to the organisations (test teams) who will be working with us and Mind over the next 6 months to develop and test small-scale solutions to improve care for people with both mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain:

  • Health Innovation Network (connect with Q member – Amy Semple)
  • Keele University, working with Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (connect with Q member – Kay Stevenson)
  • Powys Teaching Health Board (Wales) (connect with Q members – Clare Clark and Owen Hughes)
  • Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (connect with Q member – Kerry Robinson)

The test teams will work in monthly ‘testing cycles’ – working with the Lab and Mind team through a structured and creative process to develop and prototype a solution and measure impact. From each testing cycle we will learn how to improve, iterate or develop new prototypes (and we will share this learning with the Q community).

The approach used during this phase draws on quality improvement, and also brings in tools and techniques from service design and social innovation. We’ll be connecting Lab participants and Q members to the test teams to develop their ideas and offer expertise (professional and lived experience) and peer support during the process.

The end result: scalable ideas and practical learning

It is our ambition that by the end of the testing phase, some of these ideas result in promising improvements that have the potential to be further developed or scaled-up in the future.

As well as the ideas themselves, a key outcome is to collate and share the rich learning and insights that will come from the process:

  1. Practical learning for people working in mental health and/or pain services to use, adapt and adopt.
  2. Broader insights from testing which will be combined with the Lab and Mind’s research to inform and support conversations at a system or policy level on co-morbid mental health and physical health conditions.
  3. Wider learning about what it takes to make change happen, testing new ways to support people to work at scale drawing on the experiences and stories of Lab participants.

How to get involved and next steps

This blog is a brief overview of the Lab’s work to develop and test ideas over the coming months, but we will be sharing more details and learning as we go; look out for tweets via @theQCommunity and updates via the Q website and Q-municate (Q’s monthly newsletter).

If you’d like more regular Lab updates direct to your inbox, you can sign up to our Lab updates by emailing

Test teams will be sharing some of their emerging learning and experiences via the online group which you can join.


  1. This sounds great.  I think for the end results section, one also has to think 'outside the box' (especially outside Secondary Care and also look outside the NHS itself) to ensure that person-centred care gets right to the patient in Primary Care, as per NHS 10 Year Plan. The evidence-based 'Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs' programme ( mentioned in your Q/Mind most recent document offers a combined mind-body approach as an early intervention that will allow those that most need specialist care to receive it (and will also save money). Thanks for helping to make this happen - especially as we believe those in Primary Care do not usually contribute as strongly to these kind of care pathway design and innovation work.

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