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The Q Lab is developing a bold new approach to making progress on health and care challenges. As many of you may know, the Lab works on a single challenge for 12 months, bringing together organisations and individuals from across the UK to pool what is known about a topic, uncover new insights and develop and test ideas.

We recently finished the pilot project exploring how peer support could be made more widely available (take a look at the Lab Essays which share the insights from the project if you want to learn more).

Building on the learning from the first project, we’re excited to announce that the Q Lab’s next project is in partnership with Mind – the mental health charity.

The project starts in September and will focus on supporting people with a long-term physical and mental health problem, specifically looking at:

What are the experiences of people living with both mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain, and how can care be designed to best meet their health and wellbeing needs?

Why this topic?

The Lab was created to focus on complex health and care challenges: problems that are not straightforward, involve and affect lots of people, are impacted by a number of factors and where there is no single answer. Designing care to better support those with both mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain definitely falls under that category.

Having either mental health problems or persistent back or neck pain can have an enormous impact on someone’s life: Mental health problems and back and neck pain are important issues in their own right with 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (Goldberg and Huxley, 1992) and back pain affects around a third of the UK population each year.

Many people experience both: There is a strong correlation between mental health problems and persistent back and neck pain with evidence showing that the likelihood of experiencing back pain in people with symptoms of depression have been shown to be 50% higher than in those without symptoms of depression. We also know that people with chronic low back pain have been shown to have a significantly higher frequency of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, compared to people without low back pain.

There are some good examples of work happening in this area and through the Lab process we hope to shine a light on these examples and support people to build on them. We also think there is potential to learn more about the interconnection between mental health and persistent pain, and to develop and test ideas to improve care.

Next steps

Over the coming months, we hope to work with Q members and with Mind, including their network of over 130 local Minds to identify evidence, data and experience and develop a rounded understanding of the issue. This learning will be shared widely, and used by those who wish to develop and test ideas to improve care in practice through the Lab process, and beyond.

Be part of this exciting project

If you have (or know others that have) expertise or lived experience on mental health problems and / or persistent pain, we would love to hear from you.

Getting involved is not only an opportunity to contribute insights and shape this work, but to also be part of a wider collective of people and organisations committed to driving change on this issue.

  • If you have 10 minutes, you can take a short survey to share your thoughts and expertise and help shape our collective understanding of the topic.

Take the survey

  • If you’re interested in being involved in other areas of the Q Lab, including the research and supporting us to develop and test ideas, you can become a Lab participant. Lab participants work closely with the project team to develop the research, connect with others and develop and test ideas.

Become a Lab participant

What I found really helpful in the workshops were the people who had a design background and their different approach. It was so refreshing – that different approach to problem-solving. I find it really helpful having that different viewpoint and stance at addressing issues.

We hope many of you get involved in this exciting project. If you have any questions or comments, get in touch with us QLab@health.org.uk

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