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Testing improvement ideas: Keele University and Midlands Partnership NHS FT

Kay Stevenson introduces the ideas Keele University and Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust will be testing with the Q Lab over the next 4-5 months.

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Since March, the Q Lab and Mind have been working with four organisations (‘test teams’) to develop and test practical actions to improve care for people with both mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain.

This is the second blog in a short series, focusing on the journeys of the test teams, and the ideas they will be developing and then testing over the coming months.

In this blog Kay Stevenson, from Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Keele University’s Impact Accelerator Unit, introduces what they will be focusing on, as well as the importance of bringing in collaborative practice to ensure a range of perspectives are involved.

At Keele University, we have a tradition of working across teams and applying research to our clinical practice. We support staff to create innovations from research that can make a difference to those with, or at risk of, MSK conditions and co-morbidities such as mental health problems.

We know from our own research that some of the people who access our service have had chronic pain for over a year, and also report anxiety and depression. The care that people are receiving is not joined up to fully support these needs. There are number of different issues at play – including patient expectations of our MSK services and what they are there to discuss, difficulties in getting the right referral data to identify people, and varying levels of confidence from our clinicians in supporting people. We know that we need to use this insight, so we can better design our service to meet the needs of patients who live with both conditions.

The idea we want to develop and test

Specifically, we are looking to improve mental health awareness and signposting for patients and clinicians in an MSK setting. This involves looking at the current services and identifying the opportunities to embed support that will improve care. We’ll also be looking at how we reduce stigma around mental health in MSK services, so that more patients take up the support offers available to them.

At our kick-off meeting in March, we heard from a range of people from across the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Haywood Hospital and Keele University. Attendees included people who had used services, volunteers and people with clinical expertise, who helped us map pathways from different perspectives. We’ve identified a dual approach where we think there is an opportunity to improve patients’ access to services, both through improving training and awareness among clinicians, and also providing better support for patients coming to appointments.

In addition, we’ll be collaborating with a range of people who have informed the work to date. This will help us go beyond our initial understanding and dig deeper, covering as many perspectives as possible – not only our own.

Why we’re collaborating with the Q Lab

A key reason why we are involved with the Q Lab project with Mind has been to create ways for us to focus more on mental health so it becomes integral to our MSK work.

So far we’ve had valuable insight and knowledge from a number of Lab participants (people from across the UK with experience and/or expertise in the topic) who’ve shared resources with the team. These have been an incredibly useful starting point for this work.

Over the next couple of months, we want to strengthen the community of practice we are forming – building on these connections to shape and challenge our thinking. These relationships will continue to be instrumental in developing resources for clinicians and patients that are based on what people actually need.

Get in touch

As our work continues, we’re interested in hearing the experiences of people with lived experience of both mental health problems and persistent pain, who have used pain or MSK services. If you have thoughts or experiences you would like to contribute to help add to our work, it would be great to hear from you.

Over the next few months, we’ll continue to share updates and learning from our journey with the Q Community and Q Lab. If you’d like to find out more, please do get in touch via email, or join the online group to stay connected.


  1. Hi Kay

    I have a small number of case studies I used for a Report I had to do following an Innovation Award we received at CLASH.

    They are anonymous and if you think they may be of help to you, I will email them to you if that's okay?

    Take care


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