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I haven’t been keeping count, but if I’d been given a pound for every time I’ve asked/ been asked this question over the last year I think I’d be spending this week planning a holiday to somewhere warm and exotic.

Designing and developing the pilot Q Improvement Lab over the last 9 months has been an invigorating and challenging process. The support from people inside and outside of Q, who share an excitement about the possibilities of what the Lab can achieve, has been a constant source of energy.

But as anyone with experience in design will know, the process doesn’t always feel comfortable. At times it’s felt like an abstract concept. Just when you think you’ve got it, another possibility comes along.

The Lab will be based on collaboration and inclusivity

Conversations about the topic have been paramount. There has been a temptation to choose a topic quickly to make the Lab more tangible, but to do so undermines the ethos of what we are trying to create. The Lab will be based on collaboration and inclusivity, which is why the Q community will choose the topic together.

Q is growing; there are now 447 members who will have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts, to set the agenda for the Lab and our first programme of work. This is a fantastic (and unique) opportunity. Working out how to gather insights from this number of people has taken a lot of thought over the last two months – which culminates on Friday in the launch of a survey with five themes for members to choose between.

So how did we come up with the themes? Our hunch was that, at a high level, there is reasonable agreement about the main issues affecting health and care in the UK. We undertook an evidence scan, looking at documents published by the NHS in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, patient advocacy groups, national charities and think tanks – which confirmed this.

Not all of the identified issues were ‘suitable’ for a Labs approach. Back at the community event in May last year, many Q members contributed to the principles for topics. These have been refined based on feedback and further work. To make the most of the opportunities the Lab offers, every topic will put the service user or patient perspective at the centre, capitalise on the skills and expertise within Q and bring in multiple people and partners from across health and care.

We hope that you will be part of this ambitious experiment

After applying these principles, we were left with five clear themes covering issues affecting our population: from end of life care, to living with dementia, empowering people and communities, high quality mental health services and co-ordinating care closer to people’s homes. I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all priorities.

The Q community will now have the opportunity to choose the theme for the first Lab project, telling us about important priorities for their communities, service users and organisations. The theme that most members identify as their priority will be chosen.

Once the topic is agreed, there will be opportunities for members, and others, to get involved in the Lab project. We will share more information about this in February and March. For a broader look at what’s coming up for the Lab, check out Tracy’s blog.

So now it is over to the community. Let’s take this opportunity as 447 individuals to identify our priorities, so that we can pilot the Lab approach in 2017 – testing new approaches to delivering change. We hope that you will be part of this ambitious experiment.

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