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We’re delighted to launch the Lab Essays – an online collection of essays capturing our learning and insights from the Q Improvement Lab’s (Q Lab) pilot project exploring what it would take for peer support to be more widely available.

Q Lab essays
Visit the Q Lab Essays site

In 2017, the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement launched the Q Lab – an initiative working with people from across the UK to test a bold new approach to making progress on health and care challenges.

Having worked on the peer support topic for 12 months, the first three essays cover:

  1. What is the Q Improvement Lab? – what we are, who we worked with and what we’re trying to achieve (8 minute read)
  2. Learning and insights on peer support – a summary of our learning, building on the current evidence as well as drawing on Lab participants’ experiences and knowledge (20 minute read).
  3. Understanding decision making in peer support – the results of  what we believe to be the largest  survey on peer support in the UK about what is important to different groups of people when deciding whether to refer, recommend or use peer support services (12 minute read)

These essays are a snapshot of the Lab’s learning on peer support from this year and try to capture the richness of working with almost 200 Lab participants – many of whom are Q members – drawing on their lived experience and practice-based learning about peer support.

Lab participants at a 2-day workshop in July 2017
Lab participants at a 2-day workshop in July 2017

These essays mark the end of the Lab’s pilot project – a 12-month process that was designed to not only make progress on peer support, but to test and learn from the Lab approach; how we can best pool expertise, resources and ideas to move forward on challenges in health and care.

We have seen new professional relationships flourish, new ideas and projects develop based on our collective learning (some of which are bidding for funding through Q Exchange) and people have told us that they have felt supported and enabled to raise the profile of peer support, bolstered by the work they have been involved in with the Lab. All of this is hard to measure (though we are finding ways!) and hard to capture, but the purpose of this essay collection is to try and tell that story.

Building momentum on peer support

“The GP will tell me … how you’re supposed to do it. But there will be other people who will have actual experience. They can tell me did it work for them? Did they manage to do it? That’s the type of thing that’s really useful, and that you can’t get anywhere else. That’s the value of it.” – A person who participates in peer support

Coinciding with all the fantastic peer support ideas that are coming through on Q Exchange, momentum appears to be gathering on peer support.

We hope that these essays either help improve current peer support projects and initiatives, or inspire people to think about how peer support can be used to improve health care for people in the UK.

Read them, use them and share them

Throughout, the essays focus on how the peer support learning and insights can be applied practically.

As a connected community, we have the opportunity to share this learning so that it has the best chance of reaching those who will read it and use it.

  • Do you have a colleague who will find these insights useful?
  • Do you know an organisation or peer support service who can use the survey findings?
  • Can the images, videos and infographics in the collection be used to help make the case for peer support in your area?

Help us share the findings widely with your colleagues and networks. You can use the communication pack to help share the findings, or use for your own local communications.

Download the communications pack

The remaining essays

The remaining three essays will be published in August, and will focus on our wider learning from the pilot project. Specifically they will outline the how the Lab achieves impact, our ways of working (with links to tools and resources that can be used in your own improvement work) and our approach to evaluation.

We welcome any thoughts and feedback on the essays – please do not hesitate to get in touch.


  1. Great to see these. I'll be sharing them with our Peer Support team and wider within my workplace, and with the peer support groups I volunteer with

    1. Fantastic, great to hear this Anne. Thanks for all your input on this work too.

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